Managers' group blames flight delays on low morale

Weather, crowded skies and congested airport hubs were among the reasons for long waits, cancelled flights and disgruntled passengers at airports nationwide this past summer, witnesses said at a House hearing Thursday.

But low morale among employees is a factor many people haven't considered, according to a representative from the Federal Managers Association.

According to Federal Aviation Administration statistics, delays for the period January through June 2000 were almost 13.6 percent higher than in 1999.

Stephen Baker, a Federal Managers Association witness, told the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation that reorganization efforts at FAA have reduced employee morale, contributing to delays.

"In the last five years we have reorganized, restructured, re-engineered to the point where the people in the FAA can't wait until they retire," Baker said.

John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said no one factor is to blame. "Airline delays, as we all know, are at an all-time high," he said. "Passenger frustration is over the top. And, predictably, when something goes wrong, the finger pointing and blame game begins."

In its recently updated strategic performance plan, the Department of Transportation devoted a whole section to "improving mobility," which includes increasing "the reliability of trip times for the individual transportation user."

"Our effort to improve customer service ranks second only to safety," Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said at the hearing.