Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW
Marketplace Scratch Pad

Not leavin’ on a jet plane

Scott Jagow Oct 8, 2009

A new study says long flight delays are twice as common as they were 20 years ago. And as the economy improves, the aggravation of flying will only get worse. What’s the solution?

According to the Brookings Institution, 10 percent of all flights now arrive at least two hours late. Yikes. The Brookings report partly blames the airlines’ hub-and-spoke system that pushes too many flights into too few airports. In those cities, that means nose-to-tail traffic during rush hours:

Nearly 99 percent of all U.S. air passengers arrive or depart from one of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, with the vast majority of travel concentrated in 26 metropolitan hubs. Between April 2008 and March 2009, 26 metropolitan areas captured nearly three-quarters of all domestic travelers, while 20 of these metros landed 94 percent of all international passengers…

Half of the country’s flights are routes of less than 500 miles, and the busiest corridors travel between the metropolitan hubs.

What to do? From Associated Press:

Among the ideas put forward by the Brookings researchers: use technology that would allow planes to fly closer together, consider privatizing airports, and let airports charge airlines more for takeoff and landing slots during peak hours.

The last one probably won’t fly. The airlines hate the idea, and besides, you know who will end up paying for it.

Brookings says the federal government needs to spread its airport improvement funding around more. The feds are just enabling the overload of a few airports. And in those cities, how about some high-speed rail?? Here’s Brookings fellow Robert Puentes talking about it:

Robert Puentes

Got any good ideas yourself?

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.