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7/21/2005
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Daylight Saving Time Extension Vexes Airlines

Adding a week on either end of Daylight Savings Time could result in a significant disruption to airline services, says the Air Transport Association.

If the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R.6) is signed into law in its current form, someone will have to come up with a new mnemonic phrase to replace "spring forward, fall back." Among its various provisions, the bill changes the beginning of Daylight Saving Time (DST) to the first Sunday in March -- winter rather than spring -- and shifts the end of DST to the last Sunday in November. Currently, DST starts in April and ends in October, except in Arizona and parts of Indiana, which do not participate.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. "In addition to the benefits of energy savings, less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity, daylight savings just brings a smile to everyone's faces," Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said in a statement announcing the unanimous approval of the DST amendment by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in early April.

The estimated energy savings resulting from longer daylight hours could be significant. "With the potential savings greater than $300 million each year, extending Daylight Saving Time is a common sense approach that will conserve energy," Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said in statement last week.

The American Nursery and Landscape Association is one trade group that supports the extension of DST as a way to increase retail sales.

But for the Air Transport Association (ATA), an industry group representing the nation's airlines, the change promises "significant disruption to both domestic and international airline schedules and will give European and Asian carriers a competitive advantage over U.S. airlines."

The ATA projects the change will cost the airlines at least $147 million in annual revenues as a result of lost connections and scheduling issues. It also notes that the new proposed end of DST would periodically fall on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, possibly compounding confusion on one of the busiest travel days each year.

There might well be additional IT-related costs as well. "Clearly, there would be significant systems changes that would have to occur," an ATA spokesman said, though he was unable to provide specific estimates at the time of this article.

But if there are costs associated with the change, the world's largest software maker seems unconcerned. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said that the company hadn't taken a position on the DST change. Apple, likewise, declined to comment.

In a letter to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman voiced the Bush Administration's concern that the proposed DST change would cause "international harmonization problems for the transportation industry."

House and Senate versions of the bill have both passed and must now be reconciled before being sent to President Bush for signature. It's possible that the final language of the DST change will be revised based on Congressional deliberations.

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