In this summer of misinformation and political positioning, it might be hard to believe that there are legislative issues that are not being debated on talk radio that bear watching. In particular, Senate Bill 1451, which would help modernize and improve the country’s air control system, would be an important step for travelers and the travel industry as a whole.
As I’ve written here before, it’s widely accepted that the current air traffic control system is outdated and ill-equipped for handling its current workload. Among many other problems — including long delays for passengers — the system isn’t capable of utilizing the most efficient routes, which means fuel is wasted and carbon emissions are increased. But the best reason I see for travel agents to support Senate Bill 1451 is that air travel has become a major hindrance to the business of selling travel.
“Travelers deserve a smooth and efficient air travel system,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, who endorsed the legislation. “Our research shows that millions of Americans avoid air travel each year due to unnecessary hassles and delays in our nation’s airports and skies. A modernized, satellite-based air traffic control system — similar to what many Americans have in their automobiles — is the most effective way to alleviate flight delays.”
In case you need any reminders of the problems with our current system, look no further than the recent Continental Express mishap. What should have been a 2½-hour flight from Houston to Minneapolis ended up a nightmare for 47 passengers who were stuck on the plane for nine hours and were even forced to spend the night onboard.
Continental issued an apology to passengers, calling the incident “completely unacceptable” and offering refunds and vouchers for future travel (as if!) but, in truth, there is no reason to believe that delays such as these will not continue to happen until the government invests in adequate, next-generation technology.
So while the pundits make this a long, hot August to remember, we’ll be watching a common-sense bill that will truly help our industry. — K.S.