Airlines serving Los Angeles International Airport will meet next week in an attempt to develop a plan to offset travel delays anticipated from the temporary closing next month of a major airport runway.
The talks, which will begin Tuesday in Washington, will focus on ways to avoid scheduling problems that could delay an estimated 650 daily flights an average of about 40 minutes.
"We think something truly productive can grow out of those sessions that will alleviate the impact of this closing on the traveling public," said Al Becker, a spokesman for American Airlines, which had petitioned the Department of Transportation for approval of the talks.
To avoid the appearance of collusion, the airlines had to win federal approval before engaging in talks. The Federal Aviation Administration will monitor the meetings, disallowing any discussion on rates or fares. Participation is voluntary; the carriers will not be bound by any agreement.
In recent years at Los Angeles International, cracks have begun to appear in Runway 24 Left and chunks of pavement have been loosened by the immense weight of some of the jetliners. Rather than patch the runway piecemeal, engineers decided to rebuild the entire 10,285-foot strip--a $13-million project that could take four to six months.
Federal transportation experts say the closing will cause substantial delays, even with the FAA's plan to add a ground controller to the airport tower and to encourage charter flights and general aviation to use a reservation system.
The agency has suggested that carriers shift flights out of peak hours, a move estimated to reduce the number of flight delays to 250 a day, each delay running between one to 14 minutes. The proposal will be a major focus of the talks.
Earlier this year, federal transportation officials approved meetings between carriers in an effort to ease peak traffic at six other airports. More than 1,000 flight schedules at airports in Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Dallas-Ft. Worth were eventually changed.
"It's not something we do very often," said Department of Transportation spokesman Hal Paris. "We approved it at LAX because of the expectation of substantial delays. If the carriers agree to shift some flights out of peak hours, we may able to cut the delays significantly."