How to Fix Holiday Travel Problems Alex Chadwick talks to Patrick Smith, pilot and author of the Ask the Pilot column at about the reasons behind air traffic congestion.

How to Fix Holiday Travel Problems

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Back now with DAY TO DAY, where we hope you already are at or close to wherever you plan to have dinner tomorrow. Holiday travel may be worse this year than ever. Of course they say that every year.

Patrick Smith is a pilot. He's on call today and tomorrow, which means he may be flying. He also writes about air travel in his column Ask the Pilot for

Patrick Smith, welcome to DAY TO DAY, and how come every year we say it could be the worst ever this year?

Mr. PATRICK SMITH (Pilot): Most likely because each year more and more people are flying. I think we're out to set another record this season. I believe the prediction is somewhere around 27 million people scheduled to fly in the next 10 or 12 days.

CHADWICK: So what do you do to make travel easier at this time of year?

Mr. SMITH: Well, there are two fronts to the issue that travelers face at airports: You've got airport security issues, and you have air traffic delays. What we can do about it is more of a long-term solution.

Airlines have this self-defeating philosophy that frequency of flights is the ultimate key to success. And so we have more and more people flying than ever before, but they're doing it on more and more smaller planes. And in the end, this is unsustainable because it turns airports like JFK and LaGuardia and Washington National into gridlock.

CHADWICK: President Bush has asked the Pentagon to open a couple of these military air corridors back and forth across the country so that more planes can fly in more space in the sky over the next few days. Is that going to make a difference?

Mr. SMITH: No, not at all. As I wrote in my column this week, that should have roughly the same benefit as, say, rubbing a plastic airplane for good luck.

CHADWICK: Well, what would help, say, just in terms of security?

Mr. SMITH: The airlines, for their part, are in a tough position because I think they, like most Americans, realize that the majority of what goes on at the metal detector is really just silly and ridiculous. Yet they can never be seen as advocating for something that could be construed as weaker security. I'm disappointed that six years after September 11th the policies have become so institutionalized with really no organized protest or outrage from either of the airlines or passengers.

CHADWICK: As a pilot, Patrick, is it any different for you flying today or tomorrow than any other day?

Mr. SMITH: Well, remember that crew members face the same hassles and inconveniences that passengers do. Airlines are not adding flights; it's just the flights that are there are going to be about 15 or 20 percent more full on average than normal. And throw some bad weather into the mix, and terminals could definitely get a little chaotic.

CHADWICK: Patrick Smith writes Ask the Pilot for Patrick, Happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. SMITH: You too, Alex.

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