LaGuardia flight delays unlikely to decline: FAA

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The FAA report also issued a pessimistic forecast as to prospects for less crowding...

By Philip Newman

LaGuardia Airport leads the nation in handling excessive numbers of takeoffs and landings, both in good and bad weather, a Federal Aviation Administration study found.

The FAA report also issued a pessimistic forecast as to prospects for less crowding and fewer delays, suggesting that while some airports are expanding or building more runways, the number of airline passengers and flights will increase so sharply in the future as to nullify such improvements.

In any case, prospects for a lessening of flight delays at LaGuardia seem particularly bleak since LaGuardia's location precludes extending its two runways.

The report said LaGuardia, which tops the nation in flight delays, is beyond its capacity for flights an average of eight hours a day in good weather and 12 hours in bad weather.

The FAA report was the result of a study of conditions at the nation’s 30 most crowded airports. It was the first time the agency had set figures for how many flights an airport can safely accommodate. The suggestion was that airlines are scheduling more flights than some airports can process.

The report said LaGuardia could accommodate from 80 to 81 flights per hour in good weather and Newark International Airport was over capacity an average of three hours a day in good weather and more than seven hours in bad weather.

At John F. Kennedy International airport, there was no over-capacity in good weather while JFK operated above its capacity five hours a day in bad weather.

Two members of Congress from Queens hailed the report and asked the FAA to take action about what one of them called a “broken system that needs to be fixed.”

“The FAA report says exactly what residents of Queens have been saying -- that LaGuardia Airport is too crowded,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “Airlines have been forcing flights into this airport without regard for local residents, like myself, who live with the constant thunder of arriving and department aircraft. The system is broken and must be fixed.”

Crowley’s district includes LaGuardia.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-East Elmhurst) wrote FAA Administrator Jane Garvey that “for good reason, my constituents have completely lost faith in the aviation system. As the report indicates, airlines have been scheduling more flights an hour than an airport can safely accommodate.

“This is disingenuous, dishonest and dangerous,” she said. “This practice demonstrates why airlines do not deserve unfettered decision-making authority in scheduling flights.”

Congestion and resulting flight delays at LaGuardia worsened rapidly starting nearly a year ago after Congress passed legislation known as Air-21. The new law permits an unlimited number of what are termed Regional Jet flights using aircraft carrying 70 or fewer passengers to underserved airports where lack of competition had resulted in fares that many passengers said were exorbitant.

Several airlines collectively soon scheduled a total of 608 new daily flights at LaGuardia and within months LaGuardia had accounted for more than 22 percent of all flight delays in the nation.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey imposed a moratorium on new flights in September 2000 and the Federal Aviation Administration conducted a lottery on departure and arrival slots at LaGuardia in December, providing some relief in the situation at the airport.

The FAA lottery solution is scheduled to expire in September.

Crowley and U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) have proposed legislation to extend terms of the FAA lottery when it runs out.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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