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DOT Clears the Skies for Santa -- And Holiday Travelers

By Ed O'Keefe

Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters signs off on special DOT-issued "Santa Skylanes" while Mr. Claus and Col. Steven Shepro look on, earlier today at Andrews Air Force Base. (Photo by U.S. Dept of Transportation/James Kim Photography)

In arguably one of its most important actions all year, the Department of Transportation has opened the Christmas Eve skies for Kris Kringle and his reindeer and sleigh.

Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced special "Santa Skylanes" for the jolly old red-suited guy today.

“We know Santa Claus must adhere to a really tight schedule to get to every house on his list,” she said while signing the special flight certificate at Andrews Air Force Base. “Allowing him to use military airspace will ensure that crowded skies won’t mean empty stockings on Christmas morning. It just wouldn’t do to have the gridlock Grinch stealing Christmas.”

(Does the secretary's use of "Gridlock Grinch" suggests taxpayer dollars couldn't afford to buy her the time of a better joke writer?)

On a more serious note, this year's official "Holiday Express Lanes" program will expand to include busy areas over the Midwest, Southwest and West Coast hubs like Phoenix and Los Angeles. Last year's decision to open up military airspace to civilian flights significantly reduced delays around Christmas, according to a DOT release. Some East coast flights trimmed 100 miles off their trips last year, while 4,800 flights used California military airspace to save over 99,000 miles.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 18, 2008; 5:35 PM ET
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