United chief lays blame for delays

October 18, 2000


WASHINGTON--The chairman of United Airlines blamed most of the problems of flight delays on community opposition to airport expansion and said the federal government should break what he called the stranglehold of local activists.

"We need to protect the rights of local government to control their own destinies, but at the same time we can no longer tolerate their stranglehold over essential aviation improvements," James Goodwin said in a speech Tuesday to the Aero Club of Washington.

Goodwin said the number of passengers since airline deregulation in 1978 has tripled, while the air traffic control system and the capacity of commercial airports are virtually unchanged, a problem he blamed in large part on local opposition to airport expansion.

With the number of passengers expected to reach a billion a year by 2010, he said, the industry will be unable to build runways fast enough to accommodate 330 million additional passengers "because the same citizens who expect state-of-the-art airports at their destinations won't allow them to be built in their hometowns."

Goodwin called on the U.S. Transportation Department to "bring together the best minds from all levels of government to grapple with this contradiction."

Department officials had no comment on Goodwin's suggestion.

Goodwin rejected arguments that the airlines should cut schedules to reduce flight delays, and he did not hold out hope for a "technological silver bullet" to ease congestion.

On other matters, Goodwin said United has nearly completed the second round of filings with the Justice Department regarding its proposed merger with US Airways. Once the filings are complete, the department's antitrust division has 20 days to rule, although deadline extensions are common. Goodwin said he expects the case to be resolved before the end of the year.

Washington Post