Economist: LAX, BOS should get congestion pricing

Dr. Itai Ater, an economist from Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management, wants to see “congestion pricing” introduced at airports in order to save travelers time and airlines money.

One direct effect is that airlines spend more money on fuel, and there are indirect costs as well, mainly passengers’ time. To counter delays, many airlines “pad” their schedules, adding a considerable amount of time onto the flight plan, says Dr. Ater. This padding increases the costs of staff and the busy business flyer time — something often more valuable than money.

Some airlines will prefer not to pay the charge and operate during non-congested periods, Dr. Ater says. Consequently, overall congestion would drop. Currently, airlines at most airports pay for runway use depending on the weight of the aircraft, except for a few such as Chicago O’Hare, where airports use pre-determined slots to determine charges and time of operation.

Dr. Ater warns that not all airports can benefit from his plan. “At airports where there is a monopoly or almost a monopoly by a single airline, charging a tariff during peak hours has less meaning,” he says. “In these airports, like those in Atlanta, Charlotte, or Detroit, we already find fewer delays. So why intervene? Individual airlines that dominate an airport do a better job of organizing flights more intelligently and efficiently to reduce the level of delays.”

Previous research on the subject found it hard to provide consistent empirical evidence for congestion pricing. By splitting airport “types” into two categories — those with a monopoly and those that host multiple airlines ― Dr. Ater began to see clear patterns emerge. Congestion pricing is the right approach for airports such as Boston and LAX, he says.

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