American Airlines has fired a broadside at the USA's business aviation community for holding up the urgently needed upgrade to the country's overburdened air traffic control system, and is calling for a "common-sense approach" to raising the funding.
American chief executive Gerard Arpey says the US ATC system is "not keeping up" with the enormous demands being put on it because "air traffic controllers rely on outdated technologies that routinely bog down the system and compel airlines to fly inefficient, indirect routes".
Writing in the carrier's in-flight magazine, Arpey says the industry has "known for many years what changes need to be made, but very little has been done because of a dispute over how to pay for those changes".
Arpey also insists the system by which ATC activities are funded is as outdated as ATC's technology, a contentious subject currently being considered as part of US Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation legislation.
"We support a common-sense approach that would allocate costs to all ATC system users in proportion to the services they consume," says Arpey. "The money collected would be used to sustain and improve the ATC system for everyone. Unfortunately, the business-aviation community is vigorously opposing this idea because, under the current system, they are getting a nearly free ride."
He says it is important to understand that a small business jet carrying a few people poses the same challenge to ATC as large commercial aircraft. "Under the current system, airlines and their customers use about two-thirds of the ATC system's services, but pay [through taxes on tickets, fuel, and so on] 94% of the cost. What that means is that airlines and our customers are paying a subsidy - to the tune of $1.5 billion a year - to the companies and individuals who can afford their own aircraft."