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Empty seats on a plane

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Scott Jagow: It'll be interesting to see whether people start pushing back against the airlines. Just before this holiday weekend, the big carriers raised ticket prices again, for the 11th time this year. American is gonna charge people to check their first bag -- and other airlines may follow suit. And US Airways says its doing away with the pretzels, starting next weekend.

All that, and you can't even get where you're going on time. Americans wasted 320 million hours last year on flight delays. That cost the economy something like $40 billion, according to one estimate, and that has caught the attention of Congress. Alisa Roth tells us what might be done.


Alisa Roth: Fly on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon -- or, heaven forbid, on a holiday weekend -- and you know exactly what the problem is:

Roger King: The real issue is planes being scheduled to take off and land when there's not enough time or space to do it.

Roger King is an airline industry analyst. He says there are so many planes and so little airport infrastructure that the options for fixing the problems are actually pretty limited. One possibility is better use of GPS.

King: There'd be greater certainty as to where each plane is, and therefore you could fly them closer together.

There's also talk of expanding smaller airports to take pressure off the big ones. But really, King says, the best option is for the government to limit the number of flights.

King: If they would restrict the number of take-offs and landings, it would result in higher fares and it would also probably prompt the airlines over time to put bigger airplanes in each landing.

That could work for the airplanes. A bigger plane costs more to fly than a smaller one, but per seat it's actually cheaper.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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