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Monday, January 19, 2009

DOT Deadline on LGA Slots

As part of a plan to stave off gridlock at LaGuardia next summer, the Department of Transportation issued a February 2 deadline for airlines to tell the department which flights they will voluntarily give up in order to reduce congestion at the airport. DOT is attempting to reduce the hourly cap on flight operations at LaGuardia from 75 to 71.
The Air Transport Association immediately shot back that it would be better if the government concentrated on making the long-awaited ATC improvements rather than artificially constraining business.
"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/emissions, and open up access to New York area airports."
The final order, issued as DOT Secretary Mary Peters was making her final speech at the Aero Club in Washington, puts into action the proposed plan that was submitted for comment last Dec. 22. The flight reductions must take place by May 31 and will be in effect until Oct. 24.
In October, the Department announced plans to hold slot auctions at the three major New York-area airports to help preserve competition and keep airfares low while flight caps are in place, but the auctions were stayed by court order. The Secretary said her action is a near-term step toward restoring reliable air service to LaGuardia, adding that any future long-term plan should include market-based solutions. Under today’s order, the slots voluntarily returned by the carriers by Feb. 2 will be credited toward any required reductions if slot auctions proceed. Slots returned or withdrawn for nonuse after Feb 2 will be retired to meet the new hourly cap, and carriers will not receive credit for those returns.
In 2007 and in the first 10 months of 2008, LaGuardia ranked last among the 32 major U.S. airports in on-time arrival performance, with an arrival rate just above 61 percent. The airport ranked just 28th for on-time departure performance over the first 10 months of 2008. Recent data show that lowering the hourly cap on operations from 75 to 71 could reduce delays by up to 41 percent, saving up to $178 million in delay related costs per year.

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