Rep. Lipinski to Southwest: Cut Midway Delays
Crain's Chicago Business
January 14, 2011
By Paul Merrion
Southwest Airlines needs to reduce delays at Midway Airport, a Chicago congressman said Friday.
U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski sent a letter to Gary Kelly, CEO of the Texas-based carrier, asking him to explain why so many takeoffs are late and what Midway's dominant carrier plans to do about it.
“When nearly three out of 10 flights are late taking off, there's a problem that needs to be fixed,” said Rep. Lipinski, a Democrat whose district includes Midway. “As a critical source of jobs and an economic engine for the Third District and the entire Chicago region, Midway must function smoothly, especially given that travelers have other options. I know Southwest can do better.”
Midway had the worst on-time performance among the 29 largest U.S. airports last year through November, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with 72.8% of departures on time.
Southwest Airlines, which has about 85% of the traffic at Midway, ranked third-worst nationally in on-time performance, with flights arriving late 21% of the time.
Mr. Lipinski, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also asked whether Southwest's merger with Airtran Airways, Midway's second-largest carrier, would have any impact on delays at Midway in the future.
Noting that Southwest will have upwards of 91% of Midway traffic after the merger, Rep. Lipinski said in an interview that he will seek a committee hearing to examine the deal.
“We need to look and see whether this will have any detrimental impact on Midway’s on-time performance because it’s already unacceptably low,” he added. “I don’t want to give the impression that I’m opposing the merger, but it’s always good to do due diligence and take a look to make sure there are no negative consumer impacts.”
A Southwest spokeswoman said the airline is aware of the congressman’s letter.
“Southwest Airlines has a documented record of industry-leading on-time performance, combined with an outstanding safety record,” she added in a statement. “While our on-time performance has admittedly slipped in the Chicago market, we are not satisfied and are working diligently to return to industry-leading status. We are currently in the process of making substantive changes to improve our performance. We have a team of people who track our on-time performance metrics and recommend changes to our operations—we will double up our efforts to improve our rankings moving forward."
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