National / International News

What if every travel day was as bad as Thanksgiving?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-12-03 10:25

Imagine if every week was Thanksgiving at the biggest airports in the U.S.

That is exactly where we are headed, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a group that represents city tourism bureaus, hotels, and other industry groups.

The association says that within the next six years, the 30 biggest airports in the U.S. — which account for 70 percent of air passenger traffic — will see at least one day a week of spiking congestion, equivalent to what we typically see on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. 

The report says some airports have already hit that milestone, including Chicago's Midway, Las Vegas' McCarran International, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International. 

In 2015, five more airports are expected to achieve the distinction, including Washington D.C.'s Dulles and Sky Harbor International in Phoenix. 

Part of the problem is that air passenger traffic projects to grow about two percent a year, according to the FAA, and will total 738 million domestic passengers by 2018. That's up from 653 million in 2012.

At the same time, airline industry consolidation has meant fewer flights, on bigger planes, carrying more passengers to fewer airport hubs for connecting flights, says Andrew Tipping, a consultant for both airlines and airports at Strategy&. 

The result has led to huge peaks in traffic, as much 10-fold at one client's airport terminal, says Tipping, who would not disclose the client. "It's a complex problem," Tipping says, "This is not a question of if there should be change. It's a question of when there should be change."

Tipping says airports could develop a system, for example, of charging airlines more to land during peak periods. Eventually, he says, the current airport structure in the U.S. will also have to expand to meet demand.

"We can push for a while to keep on using what we've got. But at some point you can't keep on improving and there is expansion needed," Tipping says.

So, who should pay for that expansion?

The U.S. Travel Association is proposing a hike in the fee airports charge passengers on their tickets. The fee is currently capped by law at $4.50, but the association wants airports to have the freedom to raise that amount by as much as an additional $4to fund expansion projects.

"The largest U.S. airports are the most financially strapped, and these are the airports that most people use," says Erik Hansen, senior director of domestic policy at the U.S. Travel Association. 

Hansen says the country's top 30 airports are going to get even more congested within the next six years and expansion will be important to meeting future needs.

"We're investing more in airports all the time," counters Jean Medina, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, who says passengers shouldn't be shouldering airport improvement costs.

"Airports have ... access to government funds, they have access to a trust fund, they have access to concessions which all pay in ... They have numerous access to funding," Medina says.

Medina also points out that there are fewer flights today than there were prior to the recession, although the FAA predicts that domestic air passenger traffic should surpass 2007 levels by 2016.

"What's actually happening is passengers are connecting through a smaller number of airports," says Tipping. "And when you put that into major travel times like Thanksgiving and others, it does cause massive problems."

Startling Statistic: Only 8 Patients In Largest Ebola Hospital

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 10:20

The hospital in Liberia was erected this summer in a field. It has 250 beds. It was full as recently as October. Now it is nearly empty.

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'Reopen schools' in Ebola-hit states

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 10:10
A campaign group urges the rapid reopening of schools in three Ebola-hit West African states as some five million children are being denied education.

Under Executive Action, Immigrants Are Entitled To Social Security Benefits

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 10:03

Immigrants protected under President Obama's executive action will, after working for 10 years, be eligible for retirement benefits.

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Man charged over Boris flight drama

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 09:49
A man is charged with assault and threatening behaviour during a flight to Heathrow on which mayor of London Boris Johnson was a passenger.

100 brains in jars 'missing' in Texas

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 09:38
One hundred brains, including that of mass murderer Charles Whitman, were reported missing from a collection held at a Texas university.

Earliest Human Engraving Or Trash From An Ancient Lunch?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 09:03

Carved zigzag marks on a shell found more than a century ago have drawn new interest from archaeologists. The half-million-year-old lines aren't from an animal, and might be art from Homo erectus.

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Saudi woman driving blog 'arrest'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 09:00
Concerns for woman attempting to drive across Saudi border

'RAF veteran' faces terror charge

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:59
A man who says he served in the RAF and another man, both from Manchester, are charged with terror offences and are due to appear before a court in London.

VIDEO: Rare photos: When Jobs quit Apple

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:48
Rare images from when Steve Jobs left the firm he founded

The economic view from Newcastle

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:42
Laura Kuenssberg reports on the economic reality in the North East, the area of England with the highest proportion of public sector jobs.

Public spending heads to 80-year low

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:34
The OBR says spending on public services is heading for an 80-year low.

Execution stay for mentally ill man

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:32
A US appeals court orders a stay of execution for Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic Texas inmate set to be executed on Wednesday.

Bianchi 'did not slow sufficiently'

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:21
Jules Bianchi did not slow down sufficiently to avoid losing control when he crashed at the Japanese GP, an FIA accident report has found.

Want To Perk Up Your Love Life? Put Away That Smartphone

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:21

Sure, you just wanted to take a peek at Facebook. But that can chill a relationship, a study finds, especially if you and your love aren't on the same page about when it's okay to use technology.

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Federal Court Halts Execution Of Mentally Ill Texas Prisoner

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:20

Scott Panetti was diagnosed with the beginnings of schizophrenia. During his trial, he defended himself dressed as a cowboy insisting he was a character from a John Wayne movie.

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'Too much self-pity' in Scots game

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:19
Sports promoter Barry Hearn thinks it is "disgraceful" that Scotland's top flight cannot attract a sponsor.

Our Ability To Digest Alcohol May Have Been Key To Our Survival

NPR News - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:19

Our primate ancestors were consuming alcohol 10 million years ago in the form of fermented fruit, researchers have discovered. The finding suggests our relationship with alcohol is ancient.

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Smokers and obese face surgery bar

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:14
The NHS in Devon says smokers and the morbidly obese will be refused routine surgery in a drive to cut costs.

21-race F1 season proposed for 2015

BBC - Wed, 2014-12-03 08:04
The FIA announces a provisional 21-race calendar for 2015, featuring the return of the Korean Grand Prix and a new race in Mexico.