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Ad Watch: New Deceptive Ad by the Big Airlines Attempts to Mislead Passengers
February 16, 2009
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    Press Release

    Ad Watch: New Deceptive Ad by the Big Airlines Attempts to Mislead Passengers

    For Immediate Release
    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Washington, DC – The Air Transport Association (“ATA”), the trade association representing the major commercial airlines, last week began running an advertisement in airports around the country, including on the CNN Airport Network. The visuals and dialogue in the ad clearly and deceptively attempt to mislead the viewer into believing that commercial, passenger aircraft are backed up on the runway because of congestion caused by small aircraft, and that small aircraft somehow get preferential treatment at airports and don’t pay for costs imposed on the system. As the facts below clearly show, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    Specifically, the advertisement contains animated big, commercial aircraft and small aircraft on a runway, and first pictures a “young” looking cartoon commercial airliner with several other planes, asking “Hey, what’s the holdup?” Then, later in the ad, an older-looking cartoon commercial airliner complains that “hotshot there [small aircraft] is clogging up our skies,” and depicts a small plane nosing ahead of the passenger planes.

    The truth is that at the top 10 busiest airports in the US, small aircraft make up less than 4% of all aircraft operations, and according to the Department of Transportation, almost all flights were delayed for reasons directly attributable to commercial airline business practices, and specifically, over-scheduling by the airlines. Not only that, the notion that any plane can “cut” in front of any other is completely false, since the FAA mandates that no aircraft can “cut off” other aircraft on runways or in landing.

    Here are the full facts, and attached are statements from Ken Mead, former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on this misleading ad:

    Truth Check of Smart Skies: “Gridlock”

    ATA Says: Reality:
    Commercial airline: “Daggammit, I’ve got to be in Dallas by 2:30. I’m headed to Hawaii tonight.”

    Commercial airline: “Hey – what’s the hold-up?”

    Commercial airline: “Cool your jets young buck – you may have been made yesterday, but they still have to use 1950s technology to control traffic up in the tower. “

    The FAA Has Already Begun Modernization Activities and General Aviation (Small Planes) Have Been at the Forefront of the Modernization Effort. General Aviation was integral in the development and testing of the ADS-B program in Alaska – now considered the “cornerstone for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.” In March, the FAA requested industry proposals for national implementation of ADS-B technology. Significant strides are also being made in implementation of RNP and RNAV, navigation procedures that take advantage of modern technology to increase capacity around busy airports.

    The Department of Transportation Inspector General, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office have all testified to Congress that Under the Current Excise Tax System, Forecasted Revenues into the Aviation Trust Fund could cover the FAA’s Anticipated Cost of $22 Billion in Modernization Spending for 2007 – 2025. [1] The airlines’ insistence on changing the funding mechanism is nothing more than a flawed justification for a huge airline tax break.

    Visual: A small plane is pictured nosing ahead of the commercial airlines, saying: “Coming through – I’ve got a foursome here with an early tee time.” The FAA mandates that no aircraft can “cut off” other aircraft on runways or in landing. According to FAA Order 7110.65R (the Air Traffic Controllers’ Handbook), official air traffic control priority is “First Come, First Served.” [2] The only exception to the rule is cases of distress, emergency or national security.
    Commercial airline: “That hotshot there is clogging up our skies.”

    Commercial airline: “There is twice as many as them as us nowadays.”

    General Aviation Aircraft Don’t Even Use the Same Airports as Commercial Airlines: At the top 10 busiest airports in the US, FAA’s 2006 traffic count data for all towered airports shows that general aviation makes up less than 4.0% of all aircraft operations. [3]

    The Department of Transportation Has Clearly Stated that Other Factors are to Blame for Airline Delays – including the Airlines’ Hub and Spoke System: In fact, the top reasons for airline delays, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT), are extreme weather, security, aviation system congestion (including closed runways), late-arriving aircraft and airline-related problems. The Department of Transportation publishes these statistics monthly. [4]

    Not Only is General Aviation Not to Blame for Delays, but the Department of Transportation is Launching an Investigation into “Deceptive Scheduling Practices” by the Airlines: According to the Dallas Morning News, “the Transportation Department says it’s launching an investigation into deceptive scheduling practices by some airlines, taking aim at carriers that operate chronically delayed flights without telling customers of the repeated problems…. The Transportation Department says it’s already in proceedings with eight airlines to assess whether they disclosed on-time performance statistics É The latest investigation would look at the larger question of whether airlines are presenting unrealistic schedules to passengers.” [5]

    • Andrew Steinberg, Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Aviation and International Affairs, stated, “We have a regulation that prohibits unrealistic scheduling as a deceptive practice. Now we are looking at stepping up enforcement efforts thereÉWe want to understand … how it is possible that a flight could be late 70 or 80 percent of the time and that information not disclosed in an adequate way to the customer,” in his recent testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. [6]

    The Department of Transportation Has Stated that “It Should Pursue Enforcement Action Against Carriers that Consistently Advertise Flight Schedules That They Cannot Meet, Regardless of the Causes of Delay:” In November 2006, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General released “Follow-Up Review: Performance of U.S. Airlines in Implementing Selected Provisions of the Airline Customer Service Commitment.” The Inspector General recommended that “We believe OAEP [Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings] should revisit the legislative and policy precedents that address unrealistic scheduling. If OAEP does believe, as it has stated, that unrealistic scheduling is “clearly” an example of unfair and deceptive practices, then it should pursue enforcement action against carriers that consistently advertise flight schedules that they cannot meet, regardless of the causes of the delay.” [7]

    Commercial airline: “But under rules set in the ’70s, they’re only paying 6% of the taxes to run the air traffic control system.”

    Commercial airline (to Jet): “Yo – mister hot stuff – you pay your fair share to strut around here?”

    Commercial airline: “Well unfortunately partner, the way it works is we pay, and they play.”

    Narrator: “Log-on: tell Congress you want shorter, faster flights with no passenger subsidies for corporate jets. “

    FAA’s Own Data Proves that General Aviation Pays More than 6% of the Costs of the Air Traffic Control System: FAA’s own documents show that general aviation currently contributes 8.6 percent of the taxes that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

    FY 2005 IRS-Certified Airport and Airway Trust Fund Tax Revenue [8]
    Fractional Ownership Programs – 0.8%
    Non-Scheduled Part 135 Passenger – 2.2%
    Non-Scheduled Part 135 Freight – 0.3%
    General Aviation-Turbine – 1.4%
    General Aviation – Piston – 0.2%
    General Aviation – Rotor – 0.0%
    Commercial (Non-ETMS) – 2.0%
    General Aviation (Non-ETMS) – 1.7%

    The Fact is that the Extensive Cost of our Air Traffic Control System is Driven by the Airlines’ Hub and Spoke System, and that the Airlines Are Now Trying to Unfairly Shift their Tax Burden onto other Aircraft in the System: The Government Accountability Office warned Congress in 2004 that airlines do not in fact pass on tax savings to their passengers, so any improvement following a tax cut would likely be to airline profitability, not passenger ticket costs. [9] Airline management and their lobbyists have even said publicly that they are looking to improve their bottom line through a user tax proposal. [10]

    The New Tax System Supported by the Airlines Would Provide Them a Financial Windfall. The Department of Transportation Inspector General recently testified to Congress that under the big airlines’ FAA plan, the airlines would decrease their tax burden from $11.8 billion to $10.1 billion in FY2009. [11] Industry sources calculate that under the Senate’s proposal, airlines are likely to save $500 million annually due to a complete elimination of their fuel tax requirement. [12]

    [1] Hearings, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. House of Representatives, September 27, 2006 and March 21, 2007.

    [2] FAA: Order 7110.65R, Air Traffic Control, Effective March 15, 2007, Published February 16, 2006,Ê.

    [3] FAA: OPSNET data for all towered airport operations in 2006,Ê.

    [4] Air Travel Consumer Report: May 2007, Tables 9 & 10, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, Aviation Consumer Protection Division,Ê.

    [5] “Transportation department to probe airline delays,Ê” Dallas Morning News, April 20, 2007.

    [6] Statement of Andrew B. Steinberg, Assistant Secretary for Aviation And International Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation, Before the Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Aviation Consumer Issues, April 20, 2007,Ê. Question & Answer Transcript available on Lexis-Nexis.

    [7] Follow-Up Review: Performance of U.S. Airlines in Implementing Selected Provisions of the Airline Customer Service Commitment, Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, Report Number AV-2007-012, November 21, 2006,Ê.

    [8] “FY 2005 IRS-Certified Airport and Airway Trust Fund Tax Revenue”, FY05 ATO Data Package,…/media/FY05_ATODataPackage.xlsÊ.

    [9] Summary Analysis of Federal Commercial Aviation Taxes and Fees, Briefing for the Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate, U.S. General Accounting Office, March 12, 2004,

    [10] “Airlines to lobby for revamp of FAA funding next year,” Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, December 26, 2006,Ê.

    [11] FAA’s Financing Proposal, Statement of Calvin L. Scovel III, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation, before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. House of Representatives, March 21, 2007,Ê.

    [12] “Rockefeller-Lott Bill Seeks to Lighten Burden on Airlines,” The Hill, May 2, 2007,–lobby/rockefeller-lott-bill-seeks-to-lighten-burden-on-airlines-2007-05-01.htmlÊ.Alliance for Aviation Across America2007-05-29