Recently, two important reports were issued about the travel industry. First, the congressional Joint Economic Committee reported on the economic impact of air travel delays and congestion. Their conclusion: delays cost the U.S. economy $41 billion in 2007. There were 320 million hours of delays; 20 percent of flight time. (An aside: the concept of “flight time” is an interesting one. Many flights are scheduled for far longer than they were 5, 10, or even 20 years ago). These delays cost 740 million gallons of extra fuel.
Ninety-four (94) percent of delayed flights were late because other flights arrived late, national system delays or air carrier delays. Six percent were late because of security or weather.
And that was the cost just from the flights that were actually taken (or attempted, in some cases).
The Travel Industry Association released a study that is even more frightening. They estimate that 41 million trips were AVOIDED last year because travelers didn’t want to put up with the hassle. The economic cost: $26.5 billion. Add the cost of delays on trips that were taken to the cost of trips that were never taken, and that amounts to a $67 billion cost! A poll taken as part of TIA’s study shows that few travelers trust the current system or have hope it will improve. Many do not believe the industry respects them and their time.
Sometimes we forget that our industry does not exist for the benefit of airport operators, airlines, or others. The industry exists to get passengers and cargo to destinations and markets. What I think about when I see 41 million trips avoided is all the missed birthdays, graduations, funerals and reunions. I see vacations not taken by hard working Americans who want some family time.
I see business not being done. That means jobs not being created. $67 billion worth!
These studies are a wake up call for all of us. Modernize air traffic control. Build more runways and gates. Treat our passengers better. I am proud that the airport industry takes this seriously and proud of the commitment we have made to put our passengers first. We all have more work to do.