A recent article in the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) journal questions those who put the blame for airline delays and congestion on controllers, instead expressing the belief that it comes from the airlines' unmanaged, highly variant "day of" aircraft flows. Published in the winter edition of the Journal of Air Traffic Control and authored by R. Michael Baiada of the ATH Group, the article, “NAS Congestion-Who’s to Blame,” postulates that the ATC system has little to do with air traffic congestion since it only plays with the hand dealt by airlines. ATC is responsible for aircraft separation, he said, and “controllers do a fantastic job” in this regard.
While Baiada said ATC is also responsible for the “orderly and expeditious flow of traffic,” airlines need to partner with ATC to identify the most efficient sequence. “Airlines need to get into the game, as only the operator can know the most efficient ‘day of' solution for each aircraft, 24/7/365, which then must be coordinated with the ATC system, all in real-time,” he pointed out.
According to Baiada, most U.S. airlines support ATC privatization because they believe such a reorganization would lead to reduced delays. But he argues that any such improvements would be limited—“at best”—because ATC cannot solve delays.
“If we are only trying to reduce government inefficiency, privatization may have merit,” he said. “But if we are trying to reduce airline inefficiency, as is often stated, neither privatization nor NextGen will make a difference. Only airline operational excellence can do this.”
ATH, which specializes in airline flow management tools, believes that airline use of such tools could reduce delays and fuel burns, as well as free up airspaces. He acknowledges concerns of costs and the variables that would play into such systems, but disputes those arguments.