IN THE NEWS #442 - Airline Delays

By Paul Thompson

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater has called America's chief airline officials to a meeting in Washington. Mr. Slater wants them to explain the large number of flights that have been cancelled recently. They will also be asked to explain why thousands of flights have been delayed. The meeting will take place Monday. Airport officials and airline labor representatives will also attend the meeting.

Passengers left waiting at airports are angry at the airlines. But the airlines say they often are not to blame. They say delays and cancelled flights are often caused by weather or by air traffic control problems. Air traffic control is a government service. Some people think making it a private business would improve the situation.

Industry experts say there were eighteen percent more flight delays last year than in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight. And, they expect that number to keep rising.

In recent months, one airline has had the worst record. It is United, the world's largest airline. United Airlines has ten-thousand pilots. It says its problems include pilots refusing to work extra hours. Pilots at United have had a long dispute with the company about work rules and conditions.

United has more than two-thousand daily flights. Thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled this summer. The airline says it does not have enough pilots to transport the huge numbers of passengers. A pilots union says it warned the company several times that more pilots were needed. The labor group says it gave the warnings long before the busy summer travel season.

United has apologized to the traveling public and says it is working on solutions. Its president has said the company may lose as much as one-hundred-fifty-million dollars this summer. The problems have caused the price of stock in United Airlines to fall.

But Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater says the problem is not just United. He notes the increasing difficulty in dealing with the growing number of air travelers. The air traffic system in the United States is expected to carry six-hundred-seventy-million passengers this year. That is twenty-million more than last year. And that number is expected to grow to one-thousand-million within ten years.

Flight delays are not just a problem in the United States. The growing number of passengers in Europe has also caused delays there. One British report says airlines have been adding minutes to their published flight times. For example, in Nineteen-Seventy-Five airlines listed a flight from London to Paris as fifty minutes. Now passengers are told that same flight takes ninety-five minutes.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English