New Plan To Get Optimal Use Of LaGuardia

December 23, 2006

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Airlines can no longer hold but not use take off and landing slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport under a US government directive to optimize use without aggravating congestion, officials said on Thursday.

The Federal Aviation Administration released a temporary plan beginning January 1 that continues strict operating limits at LaGuardia until a permanent remedy is completed, possibly late next year.

The current operating restrictions, which are set to expire, were imposed in 2000 after airline over-scheduling made LaGuardia the worst airport in the US for delays and congestion.

LaGuardia is the smallest of New York's three major airports but it is prized by major carriers for its proximity to Manhattan. However, delays can build quickly there because of its size, especially when the weather is bad.

LaGuardia operations are dominated by US Airways and Delta Air Lines -- both of which run East Coast shuttles. American Airlines, Northwest Airlines United Airlines also fly there.

Under its temporary plan, the FAA will maintain the hourly limit of 75 take offs and landings for scheduled weekday airline service between 6 a.m. and 9:59 p.m. eastern time.

The FAA opted against allowing more flights, which could create delays.

"The FAA continues to believe that carrier demand for LaGuardia substantially exceeds the number of flights that can be operated at the airport without creating unacceptable delays," Blakey said in an order outlining the limits.

One change in the temporary regulation will require airlines to use each take off and landing slot at least 80 percent of the time to qualify to keep it. Carriers typically operate slots well in excess of that threshold but some own slots and underutilize them because of service cuts or to keep competitors out.

Under the FAA plan, slots not meeting the new minimum use standard would be reallocated by lottery. The FAA declined for the moment to reallocate slots to more low-cost carriers with limited or no service at LaGuardia.

(Reuters)