WASHINGTON – Airlines operating at New York’s LaGuardia Airport will have until Feb. 2 to tell the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) which flights they will voluntarily give up in order to reduce congestion at the airport, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
"We need to take steps now to help flyers avoid gridlock at LaGuardia this summer," says Secretary Peters. "These voluntary reductions will provide immediate relief while efforts continue on long-term solutions to aviation congestion in New York."
The final order, issued today by DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration, puts into action the proposed plan that was submitted for comment last Dec. 22 for LaGuardia carriers to voluntarily reduce scheduled operations from an average of 75 per hour to 71. The flight reductions must take place by May 31 and will be in effect until Oct. 24.
In October, the Department announced plans to hold slot auctions at the three major New York-area airports to help preserve competition and keep airfares low while flight caps are in place, but the auctions were stayed by court order. The Secretary said today’s action is a near-term step toward restoring reliable air service to LaGuardia, adding that any future long-term plan should include market-based solutions. Under today’s order, the slots voluntarily returned by the carriers by Feb. 2 will be credited toward any required reductions if slot auctions proceed. Slots returned or withdrawn for nonuse after Feb 2 will be retired to meet the new hourly cap, and carriers will not receive credit for those returns.
The Secretary said in 2007 and in the first 10 months of 2008, LaGuardia ranked last among the 32 major U.S. airports in on-time arrival performance, with an arrival rate just above 61 percent. The airport ranked just 28th for on-time departure performance over the first 10 months of 2008. Recent data show that lowering the hourly cap on operations from 75 to 71 could reduce delays by up to 41 percent, saving up to $178 million in delay related costs per year.
The voluntary flight reductions are part of a larger effort to reduce delays at New York airports, including opening military airspace, increasing consumer protections, and implementing operational improvements. The Department also has opened an additional westbound departure route out of New York area airports, added escape routes during convective weather when en route airspace is limited, and redesigned airspace to more efficiently move airplanes.
The Federal Register notice on flight reductions is available for review at www.federalregister.gov/inspection.aspx#special.
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