This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 19, 2004, that was edited for clarity.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, the growing problem of delays among the nation's biggest airlines had prompted Congress now to step in. High fuel costs, lengthier security lines are just some of the reasons that passengers already are getting ticked off. Well, Senator Trent Lott (search) says enough is enough, it's time to force the airlines to get in line, literally. Senator Lott is chairman of the aviation subcommittee.
Senator, good to have you.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), CHAIRMAN, AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE: Glad to be with you again, Neil.
CAVUTO: How can we deal with this? Because it is getting worse, you're right.
LOTT: There is good and there's bad news. The good news is we will be back to pre-9/11 numbers this summer in terms of Americans that are flying in airplanes. And that is good for the aviation industry, and it should be leading to some profits.
Of course, that has been eroded by the price of fuel. And delays are eroding confidence. And people are going to be agitated and they may decide they'll just drive.
What do we do about it? Well, you know, a lot of it is common sense. In Chicago O'Hare (search), for instance, they have scheduled something like 20 take-offs and landings a minute between the hours of 8:00 an 9:00. You can't do but three take-offs and landings a minute.
So, clearly, they cannot do that. It guarantees that you will have delays of 50 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes. And it is not just Chicago O'Hare. We have a problem out here at Dulles Air Force Base.
We're going to have three runways being worked on this summer. With increased traffic, increased passenger boardings, what are we going to do about that?
So while I say, yes, let's let the market work, I urge the administrator of the FAA and others to meet with these airports, meet with the airlines, make sure that they are scheduling reasonable take-offs and landings. If you triple or quadruple what is possible, it won't happen. You're going to have delays. Now...
CAVUTO: But don't a lot of them do that precisely because they don't want to lose customers, right? They know...
LOT: Why, sure, sure.
CAVUTO: ... most people want the 8:00 or 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. flights. So you're saying cut the games, right?
LOTT: Cut the games. I mean, you may want it at 8:15 and it may tell you it's going to be 8:15, but if they do and they overschedule, it's going to be 9:15 or 9:30. What have you gained, you know?
CAVUTO: Yes. Let me ask you, though, the airlines also say not all of these delays are their fault, that security check point at various airports are significantly delayed. I have been through this myself. I mean, so it's not just the airlines, right?
LOTT: Oh, no, no, no. Not at all. It's the whole system. It begins with the weather, you know? The good lord is involved.
If the weather is rally bad, thunder and lightning at Chicago or Atlanta, yes, you'll have delays. But it's also been exacerbated by long lines at some airports. TSA (search) has got to do a better job in moving those lines along.
We want security, but we want efficiency and we want common sense. And, therefore, TSA, the Transportation Security Authority, will be moving some of the screeners from some of the less-busy airports to some of the busier ones where they don't have enough people.
But I think a lot of it is, you know, attitude. You've got to have employees that know what they are doing, that have a good attitude, meet people along. And, you know, and don't get to be too much of a nitpicker.
When you go to an airport, like I know happened just last week, people got there an hour ahead of time. By the time they got to the gate it was suddenly 10 minutes. They couldn't get on the plane. Now people...
CAVUTO: Yes, but you know, Senator, it is something deeper than that. And I think this is sort of like something a lot of businesses do. It's like the movie theatres that say a show starts at 8:00, but that's when the previews and the commercials start.
So I'm wondering if the airlines have their own game they play. They know and they build in this pad into their schedule saying that a plane that is supposed to leave at 8:00 at night and arrive at a destination at 11:00, it leaves an hour late and miraculously it does arrive at the time. So they've padded it that much. Why can't they just tell us, all right, here's the skinny, we are just padding hopelessly and you're thinking you are late and you're not.
LOTT: Well, they are playing games in that regard. And it does — it is done in other areas. But I firmly believe that when you are honest with people, tell them what they can expect, and produce, that is the best policy.
As it is, you sit on a runway for 60 minutes or 90 minutes before you get off. People are agitated, it causes you problems with your connections, and a terrible ripple effect throughout the system.
We need people to be competent through security. We need also for them to know what they really can expect when they fly. We all wind up flying airplanes. We all have to endure these inconveniences. And people in America have been really understanding with the lines in security over the past two years.
But now we're talking about the efficiency and the scheduling. Airlines need to apply some common sense and honesty with the passengers, in my opinion.
CAVUTO: Yes, but this security thing, Senator, I think those guys do a beeline for me. They just want to see the Ralph Kramden thing with me take everything off. But that's another...
LOTT: I think they recognize you, Neil, and they want to look at your shoes and everything.
CAVUTO: No. They're doing that to you, Senator.
Let me switch gears, if you don't mind, sir, on what is going on in Iraq right now, and a lot of problems with the president. Do you think that the first sort of guilty statement is enough to ease this crisis? Or are they going to look for higher-ups? Is this going to drag on through the summer, through the fall? What do you think?
LOTT: Certainly, we need to find a way to get beyond this. They misbehaved, mistakes were made. They're going to be dealt with. And I do think it will go up the chain some.
I don't know how far. But I think we ought to let the process and the prosecutors, investigators do their job.
We have had our hearings in Washington. We've put pressure on the secretary, you know, the deputy, the generals that were here today. Everybody understands this problem has to be fixed and it has to be fixed now. We have a war...
CAVUTO: So you are not in that camp, Senator, that says, Donald Rumsfeld, happened on your watch, resign?
LOTT: Absolutely not. First of all, you have to understand interrogations are not a Sunday school class. You know?
If you tell them we're going to withhold your pancakes if you don't tell us what we need know to save people's lives, you won't get any information. Interrogation is an aggressive, rough situation. Now, humiliation and excesses that lead to injuries or death, you know, you have to be careful about that.
But no. I think that Secretary Rumsfeld, while he may have other problems, should not be held to blame alone for this incident.
CAVUTO: Senator, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.