I spend sufficient time on this blog raking the airlines over the coals, and for the most part, they deserve the raking. But if I were in the top echelon of airline management tonight, I would be livid about this article from Reuters:
"The U.S. government proposed on Friday to auction some takeoff and landing rights at the New York area's two international airports, as a way to boost competition, a plan that drew sharp criticism from airlines. Transportation officials are this spring capping the number of flights airlines can offer at peak times at Newark and JFK to reduce congestion. To ensure caps do not favor entrenched major carriers, regulators want to skim some access rights -- or slots -- and offer them at auction."So the FAA's scheme du jour to fix a broken air traffic control system is to now AUCTION slots into airports? I can see why the airlines are crying foul, this is just another example of a shallow attempt to make it look like they are actually doing something about a huge problem. The only glitch though is like so much of present day Washington D.C., we the people are watching every silly move they make.
See, if they were completely re-vamping the slot system after serious negotiations with airline and airport brass, maybe at least they could then replace our current impeded system with one that actually works. But of course, they are just scratching the same surface BushCo usually scratches with they try to fix anything. Again, from Reuters:
"The agency is proposing to shift ownership rights for JFK and Newark slots from the FAA to the airlines for 10 years. Airlines would be required to give back a percentage of slots for auction. Depending on the give-back formula, between 91 and 179 slots of 1,245 would be sold at JFK and roughly 96 of 1,219 slots would be auctioned at Newark."So when they say up to 275 of the 2,464 slots are going on the auction block, that represents just nine percent of total slots. Maybe I am to much of a realist, but nine percent of anything is nothing, period.
Lots of stories across the web tonight are reporting that massive litigation by the airlines are going to have to sort this out. One of the most complex questions to answer in this slot auction scheme is who actually OWNS the landing slots, the FAA, the airlines, the Department of Transportation or the airports. When I tried to think about this tonight, my head nearly exploded:
While it would be easy to say the airlines or the airports "owns" the slots, I believe that since the final responsibility of keeping airliners full of tourists from trading paint over Teterboro falls on the shoulders of the FAA, it seems logical that it is they who have the final word on how many planeloads of souls gets pushed into JFK, LGA or EWR during rush hour.All fine and good, but if the FAA owns the slots, are they consulting NATCA's controllers to discuss how many slots get assigned to which airport? Since FAA is screwing NATCA's people so bad right now on working conditons, it seems no stretch at all to think that the last people to be invited to any table discussion of air safety by Bushie's FAA would be NATCA.
And that – if true – would be a fatal mistake.