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The Federal Aviation Administration has postponed an auction of landing and takeoff slots at city airports following a lawsuit by airlines and opposition from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and elected officials.
The first slot auction had been scheduled for Newark Liberty International Airport on Sept. 3 with such auctions to follow at John F. Kennedy International and La Guardia airports.
The FAA Dispute Resolutions Office announced the postponement last Thursday.
The lawsuit by major airlines was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, which has not announced a date for arguments.
"The protesters have demonstrated compelling reasons to maintain the status quo" pending a study of their objections," said Kerry Long, the FAA chief legal counsel in Washington, D.C.
"This disappointing delay means travelers will have to wait a little longer for relief from the high fares, stagnant and limited competition," said Brian Turmail, a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters had ordered slot auctions — all to be under way before Jan. 20, when President George W. Bush's term ends — as a way to increase competition among airlines and relieve delays and congestion at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK.
All three airports have long been at the top of a list of the most congested and delayed among the nation's 32 busiest airports.
Opposition to slot auctions, which have never been implemented, grew among airlines, the Port Authority and elected officials, led by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as well as the New Jersey congressional delegation.
Govs. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and David Paterson of New York appealed to federal officials last week to abandon slot auctions.
The Air Transportation Association, representing most major U.S. airlines, filed a lawsuit Aug. 14 against implementation of slot auctions and the Port Authority filed a court action asking that it be included in the suit.
The Port Authority had told the FAA and DOT it would block takeoffs from airport slots involved in slot auctions, with the FAA threatening in response to withhold thousands of dollars in federal grants to the Port Authority.
Opponents of slot auctions suggested that such a move would favor larger airlines, which would use larger capacity planes to fly to larger, more lucrative cities. The result would be a great diminishing of air service to 25 smaller cities.
The ATA hailed the FAA delay order and said it was confident the court would find the FAA lacked legal authority to auction off airport slots.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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