DOT Lowers LGA Flight Caps

Dec 23, 2008
By Madhu Unnikrishnan/Aviation Daily

Thumbing its nose at the airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Transportation Dept. will press on with lowering the flight caps at LaGuardia, even as airlines and others sue to derail the auction process.

"While our hands have been somewhat tied by the airlines suing us, we're going to continue doing what we can to improve operations for passengers next summer," D.J. Gribbin, DOT general counsel, told reporters yesterday. The new rule, which airlines will have 10 days to comment on, would lower the cap from 75 flights per hour to 71.

This would start next April and run through at least Oct. 24. Carriers would surrender their slots voluntarily. DOT is in talks with all carriers with LGA slots, and Gribbin said “we have strong support from at least one carrier and interest from the others.” He declined to name the airlines, because the talks are continuing.

“This is a short-term move to end congestion in the New York-area,” Gribbin said. “Regrettably, the airillnes and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have blocked our efforts [for a long-term fix] without offering an alternative.”

Earlier this year, the DOT planned to auction slots at the three New York airports to try to ease congestion and speed the entry of new carriers into the market. The airlines, vehemently opposed, sued to block the plan, and a federal court stayed the auctions until the case can be resolved (DAILY, Dec. 10).

The port authority blasted back. “Reducing capacity, especially in the current economic climate, is the wrong way to go,” a spokesman said. Blaming the Bush administration for its “eleventh-hour efforts that will hurt air passengers,” the port authority is “looking forward to working with the next administration.”

The four senators from New York and New Jersey, all Democrats, earlier this month welcomed the stay of the auction.

Gribbin acknowledged this, saying “gridlock in D.C. should not cause gridlock in the skies over New York.” DOT is pursuing the flight caps “because next summer has the potential to be a disaster.” DOT is hoping the short-term flight cap reductions will improve reliability and reduce congestion at LaGuardia, Gribbin said.

The caps at Newark and New York Kennedy, currently at between 82 and 83 flights per hour according to Gribbin, will not be changed.

Photo of LaGuardia by Joseph Pries

Aviation Week

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