To reduce traffic, airlines agree to shift schedules;

In an effort to prevent the Federal Aviation Administration from taking over John F. Kennedy International Airport's flight program, several airlines have agreed to change their schedules to smooth out the busy afternoon and evening hours.

After the FAA threatened last week to cap flights out of JFK at 80 per hour, a 20% reduction, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways agreed to shift flights from the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"We want to participate in the short run with the FAA,'' says Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson, "even though we don't think it will be efficient in the long run.''

The Air Transport Association, which represents most major U.S. carriers, opposes the FAA's proposal. Mr. Anderson is also fighting the cap but says he is willing to work with the FAA "for the good of the whole.''

40% jump in traffic

jfk's air traffic jumped by 40% this year, and the busy airport's delays skyrocketed. Through August, it was the most-delayed airport in the country, able to get only 68% of its flights off the ground on time. Newark Liberty International and La Guardia ranked as the second- and third-most-delayed airports. A recent Department of Transportation analysis determined that nearly 40% of travel delays nationwide originate at New York's airports.

The FAA's answer is to eliminate flights. The airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airports, insist there are technological and logistical fixes that would allow for the expansion of flights. The Port Authority has proposed dozens of improvements, many of which could be implemented before next summer. Those include remapping air routes for takeoffs and landings, using high-tech sensors available in planes, and reducing "outdated'' space restrictions between aircraft.

But the airlines' biggest problem with the FAA's proposal is that it's discriminatory toward domestic carriers, according to Jim May of the ATA. The recently approved Open Skies Rule will bring more European carriers to JFK, but they are likely to be exempt from the cap. "It's essentially taking slots away from us and giving [slots] to them,'' says Mr. May. "We won't be able to compete.''

Delta, JetBlue revamps

by next summer, Delta will eliminate its propeller planes and reduce the number of small regional jets. It will also shift some of its flights out of peak hours.

JetBlue, the largest carrier at JFK, will move dozens of flights out of peak hours by next year, cancel service to Nashville and Columbus, and shift several flights from JFK to Westchester County Airport.

"We look at it as self-help,'' says a JetBlue spokesman. "JFK is so important to us; we need to take the lead here.''



BUSY HUB: Through August, JFK got only 68% of its flights off the ground on time.

Copyright 2007 Crain Communications Inc.