The US Federal Aviation Administration has revived proposals to introduce market-based airport fees to cut delays, with New York LaGuardia as a test case.

LaGuardia is the USA's most congested and delay-prone airport following a 2000 Congressional mandate to boost flights by new entrants and to encourage services to small towns. By the end of 2000, over 15% of LaGuardia flights were delayed and the airport was responsible for a quarter of all US delays. The FAA reacted by limiting flights, distributing the rationed slots using a lottery.

But this so called "slottery" is a temporary solution and the FAA is now looking at a long-term approach. Under discussion are: higher fees of up to $2,000 per flight operation at peak hours; granting slots to aircraft with the largest number of seats; rationing slots by the type of flight (commuter, small-city service, new entrants and majors); and the auction of landing slots, at a cost of between $20,000 and $30,000 a month per scheduled operation. It began considering the market-based approaches at LaGuardia early last year, but suspended a study on the issue after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The FAA is seeking comments from airlines, and is not expected to make any decisions until late September. Longer term, more draconian measures are being eyed, such as caps on flights or even excluding foreign carriers.

Meanwhile, operations at Washington DC's downtown National Airport may now return to pre-September levels.

Operational restrictions were imposed after the 11 September attacks, as flight paths in and out of the airport take aircraft near to the White House. The ban has been lifted on Boeing 757s and similar size aircraft types, and early morning and late night flights. General aviation aircraft are still barred.

A plan to convert the former El Toro airbase near Los Angeles, California, into a civil airport has been abandoned after opposition from the US Navy and local residents.

Source: Flight International