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U.S. aviation authority taps better communication to ease delays

(Xinhua)

10:33, December 01, 2011

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Randy Babbitt on Wednesday said that airport delays in the country during winter storms can be mitigated through better communication between airlines and airports, as holiday travel season is to begin.

Speaking during a forum on flight diversion hosted by the Department of Transportation, Babbitt cited an incident in which JetBlue and American airlines diverted 7 planes to Hartford, Connecticut during a snow storm in the New York area, resulting in passengers on the planes being stuck on the tarmac for over 7 hours.

Airlines' "independent decisions" made the incident possible, said Babbitt, noting no airline knew what the others were doing.

As the holiday travel season approaches, the FAA is to take measures to prevent such incidents to take place again. "We can act fast," said Babbitt, and the FAA will start including officials of regional airports in conference calls about weather and other special situations. The calls now include only the FAA, airlines and big airports.

The agency has recommended development of a website to be used in emergencies and clearly marking diverted flights to prevent confusion among airports and air-traffic controllers, according to FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta. He also said that airports should develop storm contingency plans.

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