Extreme Weather Delays: Is There a Better Way?

hurricaneThe havoc wreaked on air travel in the first week of 2014 should be a wakeup call to focus on airports and and related infrastructure issues the Global Gateway Alliance (GGA), an advocacy group for New York area airports, says. Airline passenger deserve better, GGA says.

During the most recent four-day period (January 4-7), the three major New York area airports accounted for over 5,100 delays and 2,100 cancellations, while Chicago’s two major hubs showed 3,000 delays and 4,600 cancellations. Over fifty percent of all flights at both airports were cancelled or delayed during the period, GGA said in its analysis. 

Five other leading national cities for airport delays due to the week’s weather were Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston and Cleveland, GGA said.

RELATED: Record Cold and Winter Storm Creates Havoc for Airlines

NYC airports ground to a halt on Sunday, GGA notes, with 2,300 disruptions to inbound and outbound services, including nearly 600 cancelled flights and 1,700 delays. The chaos spread throughout the country as Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston and Cleveland were also heavily impacted by the inclement weather, resulting in over 5,200 delays and cancellations. 

GGA called for a greater focus among national and local leaders, airlines, airport operators and other stakeholders to create a more modernized aviation infrastructure system.

“The rampant cancellations and delays we saw this week are a wake-up call for leadership to start focusing on better airports…", said Joe Sitt, chairman and founder of GGA.  

“Bad weather that causes serious disruptions in air traffic is going to happen, but it shouldn’t continually wreak havoc. Travelers should expect everyone involved in the industry to create a modern, safe and efficient aviation system, and should hold our leaders accountable for delivering," Sitt said.

GGA recommendations:

  • Faster implementation of NextGen, particularly at NYC airports and other hubs: While NextGen won’t stop bad weather from happening, it can help manage and mitigate the impact of individual storms. Since more severe weather often comes in waves, better management of delays and fewer overall cancellations will help avoid the cascading effect that created so many problems plaguing the air traffic system this week.
  • Better customer service contingency planning: With passengers always advised to “Call your airline” before going to the airport during a weather event, airlines and airport operators must make sure there are sufficient customer service agents on call to handle the volume and serve their customers.
  • Modernized airport terminals: Passengers are spending more time in airport terminals as a consequence of severe weather, as well as layovers and security needs, so it is important to improve the conditions in terminals. Pictures of passengers packed inside outdated terminals like LaGuardia’s CTB this week demonstrate that significant investments are needed, GGA said.
  • Remaining focused on safety: Taking responsible steps like investing in new deicing technology and facilities, runways that deice faster and ultimately canceling flights when necessary, will help comfort passengers and create a more efficient system to handle severe weather.

RELATED: GGA Seeks Free Wi-Fi for New York Airports

“For too long, aviation investment has taken a back seat to other budget and infrastructure priorities. But the first week of 2014 can serve as a turning point to putting resources, focus and leadership toward finally modernizing air travel. Our economy, brand and quality of life for millions depend on it,” GGA executive director Stephen Sigmund said.

Visit www.globalgatewayalliance.org