The numbers don’t add up: Airlines claim they pay 95% of ATC costs, but FAA numbers prove that’s false

The Air Transport Association (ATA), the trade association that represents the airlines, began running television advertisements in airports around the country, late in May.

The ad deceptively attempts to mislead viewers into believing that commercial, passenger aircraft are backed up on runways because of congestion caused by small aircraft, that small aircraft somehow get preferential treatment at airports, and that they don’t pay for costs they impose on the air traffic system.

The advertisements show animated big, commercial jets and small, general aviation aircraft on a runway. The first pictures show a young-looking cartoon airliner with several other planes, asking “”Hey, what’s the holdup?”" Then an older-looking cartoon airliner complains that “”Hotshot, there, is clogging up our skies.”" Then the animation shows a small plane nosing ahead of the passenger planes, announcing brusquely: “”Coming through. I’ve got a foursome here with an early tee time.”"

As the commercial ends, an announcer’s voice says, “”Log on. Tell your Congressmen you want shorter, faster flights with no passenger subsidies for corporate jets.”"

The truth is that, at the top 10 busiest airports in the U.S., small aircraft make up less than 4% of all operations. According to the Department of Transportation, almost all flight delays are directly attributable to commercial airline business practices, specifically their over-scheduling. Not only that, but the notion that any plane can “”cut in front”" of any other is completely false. The FAA mandates that no aircraft can “”cut off”" any other aircraft on runways or in landing.

“”Frankly, I find the airlines’ new ad disappointing and quite misleading,”" said Ken Mead, former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation. “”As they have in the past, they attempt to blame others for their own flight delays.”"

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s president, Patrick Forrey, added bluntly: “”In reference to the airlines’ commercial on travel delays, corporate traffic is not the reason for system delays. And the ridiculous assertion that private aircraft get priority treatment is absolutely false.

“”The airlines, much like the FAA, have gutted their staffing levels and trimmed the margin of error down to an unprecedented low level so that even the slightest hiccup in their plans can set off a massive wave of delays due to ‘rush hour’ scheduling and hub-and-spoke operations.”"

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