For Immediate Release

Release No. AOC 16-06
July 13, 2006
Contact: Paul Takemoto
Phone: (202) 267-3883

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is phasing in a new program designed to greatly reduce the number of flight delays and bring an estimated $900 million in cost savings to the airlines and the flying public. The agency noted that it is launching the program now to address flight delays caused by summer weather and travel patterns.

The Airspace Flow Program will allow air traffic controllers to delay only those flights that are expected to encounter extremely bad weather. As a result, the new program is expected to minimize the crippling effects of the sudden thunderstorms that frequently affect the nation’s airspace system during the summer when travel is at its highest. On a single severe weather day, thousands of flights can be delayed, diverted or canceled, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers and resulting in millions of dollars in operating losses for carriers. There are as many as 40 severe weather days each year.

“This program allows us to work around severe weather in highly congested airspace with greater precision and efficiency than in the past,” said Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “As a result, we will cut delays, keep passengers safe and make summer travel easier.”

Under the Airspace Flow Program, controllers will issue expected departure times to aircraft that are expected to pass through airspace affected by bad weather, and safely meter them through the constrained area. This improves the FAA’s ability to respond to severe weather and reduces the amount of unnecessary delays and disruptions.

The new program integrates existing technologies put in place by the FAA over the past few years and was developed by a select team of officials from the agency, the airlines and the general aviation community. The team also established the protocols for deciding on the best time and methods for using the program. During the first year, the program may be used at six locations marked by boundary lines for high altitude en route centers in the East, Southeast and Midwest.

Blakey said that using the Airspace Flow Program just 10 times in 2006 will result in cost benefits to the airlines and the flying public of approximately $20 million. She added that over 10 years, the program is expected to save airlines and travelers a combined total of over $900 million.

Through collaboration with the airlines and other customers, the FAA will provide advanced notice on specific flights that would be affected, making it easier for travelers to get advanced notice of flight delays.