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US Airways adjusts fleet plan to prepare for LaGuardia restrictions

US Airways is to adjust its fleet plan in preparation for the US Federal Aviation Administration’s new congestion relief scheme at New York LaGuardia airport, which will reduce the number of small regional jet services at the airport.

In an employee newsletter dated 31 August, US Airways senior vice president of planning and alliances Andrew Nocella admits the FAA’s proposed rule “will have an impact on how we operate”.

For example, he says, the use of smaller aircraft operated by [US Airways Express carriers] Colgan Air and Piedmont Airlines, plus many of the carrier’s affiliates “will be permitted only in small markets”.

To this end, management has been working to alter US Airways’ fleet strategy “to make sure we can meet the future requirements”, says Nocella.

This includes the major’s recent amended feeder deal with two Republic Airways Holdings subsidiaries. Under the pact, Republic Airlines is acquiring 30 86-seat Embraer 175s, while sister carrier Chautauqua Airlines is to cull 20 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145s from the US Airways Express network.

Issued on 25 August, the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking seeks to compel carriers to operate larger aircraft at New York LaGuardia from January 1.

Under the proposal, the FAA will maintain the current hourly cap of 75 scheduled operations at the New York airport. To offset the effect of the restrictions, the FAA proposes to implement an airport-wide, average aircraft size requirement at LaGuardia that is “designed to increase the number of passengers that may use the airport within the overall proposed operational limits”.

The plan also intends to increase the average seat capacity of aircraft operating at LaGuardia to 105- to 122-seats from the current 98-seat average, although the exact limit will depend on a number of factors, including how the FAA rules on various proposed exemptions for small community air services.

The new rule will take at least three years to be fully implemented, notes Nocella. However, he adds that “by 2009 and 2010 our LaGuardia flight schedule will be different and we will be flying larger aircraft on average”.

“We will continue to work with the government to make sure new rules are reasonable and protect service to all the markets we serve.”

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