Finger-pointing between airlines and the Department of Transportation (DOT) has become fashionable lately. Unfortunately, the consumer is the one who gets poked in the eye.

The US air travel network, despite its complexity, is the safest in the world.There have been no major fatal accidents on scheduled commercial passenger airlines since 2009, and over the past 25 years government and industry have worked together to reduce the risk of fatalities in commercial aviation by more than 95%. During this period, the momentum for dramatic improvements in aviation safety has been fueled by ongoing partnerships and data sharing through voluntary safety programs.

The hard-won partnership between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and private entities such as commercial airlines has had success far beyond safety. Industry proposes congestion in 2022 to worry about Florida airspace comes as the aviation system recovers from COVID-19-related disruptions. The resulting conversation between industry and the FAA led to the formation of a task force to address these issues, ultimately improving operational performance and reducing delays and cancellations. Similar efforts are underway in Las Vegas and Denver.

Over the years, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the industry have been implementing next generation technology.This year, a series of runway incursions led to the FAA Safety Summit, which brought together industry, labor and government to launch new safety initiatives, including Stand Up For Safety Air traffic controller training.

Most importantly, these successes cannot be taken for granted. Achieving results requires government and industry to build trust and work together to improve. Recently, however, the Ministry of Transportation has played an oversized role, which has upset the balance of this cooperation. Instead of resorting to enforcement as a last resort when collaboration doesn’t work, DOT has created an unnecessarily adversarial working relationship that drains valuable resources and harms consumers.

Despite the headlines, the DOT’s actions don’t guarantee a substantial, long-term improvement in the passenger experience. Operators have higher demands on themselves than the government. Some recent actions by the U.S. Department of Transportation may have the opposite effect, diverting resources away from companies’ ability to innovate and invest in enhancing operations and the overall customer experience.

Take Southwest Airlines’ severe disruption in December, which left millions of passengers stranded. Southwest Airlines takes responsibility for its actions and takes matters into its own hands by going above and beyond regulatory requirements to take care of customers. What ultimately calmed the storm was the airline’s actions to reset operations and its willingness to do the right thing for customers and work transparently with the Department of Transportation once normal operations resumed. This work is not done in any way, like security, it is a process of continuous improvement.

As airlines prioritize their customers day in and day out, having a strong partner within the federal government is critical. That means being guided by precedent and bringing the federal government back to working with industry to realize the full potential of the partnerships we have historically seen strengthen consumer protections.we are hopeful Mike WhitakerPresident Joe Biden, who is expected to be nominated to lead the FAA, will be a catalyst for our collaboration going forward.

DOT should also be introspected. As the FAA’s NOTAM system outage in January demonstrated, years of funding shortfalls mean the FAA’s capital budget must be supported to modernize the system.Another example is the need to expedite the FAA’s program reallocate The airspace around Newark to the approach control center in Philadelphia will greatly improve operations at many airports on the East Coast and across the country.

Any outage by the federal government would affect consumers far more than any single airline failure, although the ultimate victory will come when the Department of Transportation, the FAA, and commercial airlines refocus their efforts to achieve The real purpose of air travel: getting passengers to their destinations safely and on time with their luggage.

Air navigation will only get more complicated as demand continues to grow and a host of factors beyond our control increasingly restrict U.S. air travel, whether it’s northeasterly winds or Canadian wildfires. We see how weather can have knock-on effects, disrupting flights thousands of miles away.

Additionally, critical federal aviation employees, such as air traffic controllers and meteorologists, are in high demand, while staffing issues have exacerbated delays and cancellations.

The unfortunate reality is that air travel is only going to get more challenging because of these restrictions. If we don’t work together to act now, things will just get out of hand: delays, cancellations and lost luggage will be the status quo. Now is the time to turn things around and reinvigorate the FAA’s role as a partner while enabling airlines to go above and beyond for their customers. Today, this collaboration is more important than ever.

Steve Dickson is a former U.S. Air Force and Delta Air Lines pilot who rose to become Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations. He took over as head of the Federal Aviation Administration in August 2019 following the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. Dixon will retire from the FAA in 2022 after 43 years in the aviation industry.

Randy Babbitt served as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration from 2009 to 2011. Prior to the FAA, he served as President of the Airline Pilots Association, leading the largest airline pilots union in the US and Canada, as well as an Eastern Airlines pilot and an aviation industry consultant. At the end of his tenure at the FAA, he joined Southwest Airlines as senior vice president of labor relations, where he remained for four years until his retirement after 50 years in the commercial aviation industry.

The opinions expressed in Fortune review articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of: wealth.


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