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Air Travel Group to Push for Airport Improvements

April 13, 1988|ROBERT E. DALLOS and ERIC LICHTBLAU | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Pledging to put aside parochial bickering, a broad consortium of airlines, unions, consumer groups and industry representatives Tuesday sounded an alarm over the growing pressure on the nation's air travel system and announced a joint effort aimed at easing the problem.

The group, calling itself Partnership for Improved Air Travel, launched a public awareness campaign whose goal is the dramatic modernization and expansion of U.S. commercial aviation facilities.

Among other things, the 22-member group called on the federal government to hire more air traffic controllers and urged improvement of existing airports and construction of new ones. It noted that the last major airport to be built in this country was the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in 1974.

The group also voiced complaints that the federal government has not used $6 billion in user taxes to improve airports. The money, which comes from an 8% tax on airline passengers, has been going into the general fund to reduce the deficit, the group charged.

Formation of the organization was announced at a news conference here that was carried by closed-circuit television to reporters in a number of other cities, including Los Angeles and New York.

The effects of airline deregulation have greatly increased the number of people who travel aboard U.S. airliners, the group said. But airports have not kept pace with the growth.

Southwest Airlines Chairman Herbert D. Kelleher, who heads the fledgling group, said that in 1977, the year before airlines were deregulated, about 243 million passengers boarded commercial aircraft in the United States. This year there will be 487 million boardings.

The group, which plans to spend $15 million in the next two years to get public backing for its programs, is reportedly the brainchild of Robert L. Crandall, chairman and president of American Airlines.

Robert E. Dallos reported from New York and Eric Lichtblau from Washington.

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