NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Environmental Regulations Delay Airline Passengers

March 12, 2001

Environmental regulations contribute significantly to airline delays and cancellations in the United States by inhibiting the timely construction of much-needed runways, says the National Center For Public Policy Research.

  • The number of passengers flying annually rose from 250 million in 1978 to 600 million in 1999, and is expected to top one billion by 2010.
  • But only two new major metropolitan airports have been constructed since 1978.
  • Airline departures increased 25 percent during the 1990s but only six new runways were added at large hub airports.
  • It only takes two years to construct a major runway, but design and construction often takes 10 years or more due to cumbersome environmental permitting requirements.

Efficiency and passenger comfort is seriously eroding due to so many jets competing for limited runway space and gates.

  • Between 1995 and 2000, airline cancellations jumped 104 percent while departure and arrival delays increased 33 percent.
  • Last year, the number of customer complaints, mainly about cancellations, delays and missed connections, increased 14 percent compared with 1999.

Before commencing construction airport authorities must conduct studies and obtain permits under federal and state laws governing a host of environmental concerns. The process is often delayed by lawsuits from groups opposed to new construction.

For example, an environmental group fighting new runways at San Francisco International Airport claims new flight approach procedures, improved radar, new air traffic control software and other technological improvements "could slash delays sooner, more cheaply and with much lower impact" than new runways.

However, Steven Brown, the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) head of air traffic services, says technological modernization would add three to five takeoffs and landings per hour at a typical major airport. A new runway would allow 30 to 40 additional landings and takeoffs per hour.

Source: John K. Carlisle, "Mad About the Quality of Air Travel These Days? Blame Environmentalists," National Policy Analysis No. 331, March 2001, National Center for Public Policy Research, 777 N. Capitol Street, N.E., Suite 803, Washington, D.C. 20002,(202) 371-1400.

For study text

http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA331.html

 

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