The US Federal Aviation Administration's proposal to temporarily allocate slots at delay-plagued New York LaGuardia Airport by means of a lottery is expected to be approved by affected airlines while they await a new national policy aimed at alleviating the gridlock at major US airports.

Last month, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials set a moratorium at LaGuardia on new flights during peak hours. They challenged AIR 21 federal legislation that opened access at LaGuardia to regional jets and initial services by new long-haul airline entrants (Flight International, 3-9 October). Industry observers say the airport lacks the authority to take such a step. It then began to hammer out a compromise to head off a court challenge.

FAA and Port Authority officials met with affected air carriers on 8 November, when they were given seven days to comment on the lottery, which FAA officials say they have the authority to impose. Industry observers believe that the affected carriers will go along with the lottery because they have no choice, and a legal challenge is not anticipated.

The plan, which goes into effect on 1 January and runs through to 15 September, cancels more than 200 new daily flights which have been added at LaGuardia under the law. These have been replaced with 150 flights allocated through the lottery that favours new entrants. The FAA says: "This action is appropriate and necessary to prevent the scheduling of more flights at LaGuardia than can possibly be operated."

The lottery is considered only a temporary solution, and the FAA is formulating long-term policy on measures to control delays at congested airports. One airline official says "LaGuardia is just the tip of the iceberg. What happens there may, down the road, help alleviate airport congestion nationwide."

Source: Flight International