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Air Travel Tensions Grow

Ask just about any frequent air traveler, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr, and you'll learn that these days, there's little fun in flying.

Tempers are growing shorter, and trips have become more tedious. Delays -- often caused by bad weather and radar breakdowns -- are a daily occurrence.

For example, weather held a recent Delta Shuttle flight on the runway for two hours, then the plane ran low on fuel and was forced to return to the gate. Passengers were left to scramble for other flights. One man on board comments, "I think this is pretty silly. This is like amateur hour."

Based on data for the first seven months of 1999, flight delays are up by 18 percent over a year ago. What's more, they're up a whopping 70 percent in July alone.

"That is mind boggling," says Carol Hallett, of the Air Transport Association. "And of course not only does that adversely affect passengers, but our crews, our airlines."

On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration promised changes. Soon the National Command Center, which monitors all air traffic, will have more authority to route planes around problems. The FAA says it will reduce large distances between airplanes in flight, and will also try to prevent a storm in one place from causing delays across the country. That's a relief to traveler J.J. Campbell, who complains, "Once we were on the plane about four hours out on the ramp before we took off."

The FAA says the changes will not compromise safety. But at the same time, it's not clear that they'll solve the problem. With millions more flying each year, the pressure on the air traffic system continues to build.

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