Regulators finalize voluntary flight reductions at LaGuardia

Washington DC
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Despite objections from airlines and airport operator the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), regulators have moved forward in asking airlines to voluntarily reduce operations at LaGuardia airport less than a week before the new administration of President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Carriers operating at LaGuardia have until 2 February to voluntarily inform the US DOT which flights they will relinquish, part of the regulator's plans to reduce congestion at the airport, outgoing US transportation secretary Mary Peters says in a statement.

The voluntary action was introduced by US regulators in December, and the final order was issued today.

Operations will be trimmed to an average of 71 per hour, down from the current 75 per hour between 31 May and 24 October.

The latest caps were proposed after planned slot auctions at the three major New York area airports were stayed by a court order.

Slots voluntarily returned by 2 February will be credited toward any required reductions if slot auctions proceed.

DOT says lowering hourly operations could reduce delays by up to 41%, saving up to $178 million in delay-related costs per year.

US carriers have banded together through their lobbying group to oppose the Transportation Department's latest action.

"While the DOT announcement regarding voluntary slot reductions at LaGuardia was expected, ATA has long advocated that the most meaningful way to reduce delays is to fully implement operational and technological improvements-not to artificially constrain demand by measures such as slot reductions and auctions-and to accelerate development and deployment of technology and systems modernization. These measures will reduce flight delays and unnecessary fuel burn [and] emissions, and open up access to New York area airports," the Air Transport Association of America says in a statement.

PANYNJ contends the outgoing administration is creating hurtful policy.

"The Bush administration seems intent on 11th-hour efforts that will hurt air passengers," the authority has previously said.