US commercial air traffic was allowed access to restricted airspace in the New York region for five days last week to relieve pressure during a peak travel period over the annual Thanksgiving holiday. A similar plan is being proposed for the Christmas break.

The plan enabled airlines to operate in two military zones off the US East Coast for between 21 and 25 November. The releasing of the military airspace "gets people out of the New York area quicker", says US Federal Aviation Administration vice-president for systems operations Nancy Kalinowski.

US Department of Transportation secretary Mary Peters says commercial airliners also should have access to the same zones during Christmas. The Federal Aviation Administration has also imposed a moratorium on non-essential maintenance and repair operations during Thanksgiving and Christmas, she adds..

New air traffic management procedures are also being adopted to increase landings at New York's Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports in bad weather. Aircraft will also be allowed to use certain adjacent runways simultaneously at Kennedy and Newark.

Meanwhile, Peters is pushing for airlines to be required to create legally binding contingency plans for extended tarmac delays, respond to all consumer complaints within 30 days, publish complaint information online and provide on-time performance information for international flights in addition to domestic flights.