Feds to auction LGA runway slots

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The U.S. Transportation Department has announced last Wednesday it will auction off takeoff and landing slots in an effort to ease congestion at LaGuardia Airport in a decision denounced by elected officials, the nation's airlines and the Port Authority.

A Queens congressman meanwhile called on the federal Transportation Department to cut air traffic at LaGuardia in order to protect the health and safety of the Queens community.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced the plan which she said "strikes a sound balance between protecting investments by incumbent carriers and ensuring that all airlines have the ability to fly to New York's LaGuardia."

"While the status quo at LaGuardia has led to stagnant service, delays and unnecessarily high fares, open access and competition will help give fliers more choices, fewer delays and lower fares."

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, "The FAA's misguided plan to sell takeoff and landing slots to the highest bidder won't make your plane take off faster. It will just cost New Yorkers more to fly and throw LaGuardia Airport into chaos,"

Gov. David Paterson said the federal plan "is not the right solution and in the case of auctioning of slots at LaGuardia, woefully misguided. These auctions will increase the price of travel for the 26 million passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year."

James May, president of the Air Transport Association of America, representing airlines, said, "It is truly mystifying with the airline industry in a financial meltdown due to overwhelming fuel prices, that the Department of Transportation decides now is the time for a costly economic experiment at LaGuardia."

The Port Authority said, "instead of modernizing a 1950s-era air traffic control system to meet passenger demand for more flights, the DOT and FAA are choosing to charge passengers more money via an auction without reducing delays and delivering relief."

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said, "It is important to the health and safety of my constituents and all of the Queens community to see a reduction in air traffic at LaGuardia Airport. I urged the Department of Transportation to make sure its plan would actually reduce air traffic."

As to the DOT's slot auction plan, Peters said, "this proposal increases choices for passengers and adds competition, which is proven to lower fares. It also cuts delays and funds new aviation capacity projects for the region."

The DOT also announced the doubling of the amount of money airlines are required to pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped off their flights. Under the new rules, taking effect in May, passengers involuntarily bumped would get up to $400 if they are rescheduled to reach their destination within two hours of original arrival time or four hours for international flights and as much as $800 if they are not rerouted within that time-frame.

The federal plan also includes the opening of a second westbound aircraft route to help cut westbound delays from the New York City area and opening of Canadian air space so airlines leaving the New York area can detour around summer thunderstorm systems and high winds.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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