A rough summer for aviation operations and customer service has come to a close. If you listen to leaders in aviation, you will hear a cacophony of reasons for the industry's failures, including:
- Airline overscheduling and flight cancellations
- Insufficient airport infrastructure to accommodate recovery
- Labor shortages, including airline pilots, air traffic controllers, and airport concessionaires
- Long lines for security and customs and immigration
Seemingly in contradiction, at a variety of industry conferences, we hear about the exciting future of supersonic flight, new technologies streamlining passenger processing, aircraft that will take off vertically and improve our commutes, and gleaming new airport terminals promising better customer experiences. Loads of industry investment, backed by public and private money, are already at work to transform our industry.
While we should be excited about these developments, we must give priority attention to our daily operational challenges. As the great college basketball coach John Wooden said, "If you do enough small things right, big things can happen." For aviation, this means we deliver on-time, reduce queues, and provide pleasing customer experiences.
The policy window of opportunity is open: in just over a week, the aviation industry will enter the final year of the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its programs (October 1 is the start of federal fiscal year 2023). Given the challenging issues faced by the industry, only by working together will the FAA be successfully reauthorized, placing the industry on a firmer foundation.
Over the next year, the policy deliberations will take place in a much different environment than six years ago--the Airport and Airway Trust Fund does not have enough money to pay for its traditional share of obligations; fuel prices remain stubbornly high; investments are required at airports and with air traffic control operations and equipment; the industry must transition to its promised NetZero future; and we desperately need to regain the confidence of our customers.
Overheated rhetoric and finger pointing among industry leaders will fail; calm and sober reflection and finding common ground will succeed. October 1, 2024 will come quickly. It's time to get on with it.