Sections

Fed court halts FAA plans to sell JFK’s slots

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The Federal Aviation Administra­tion’s plan to auction off airline takeoff and landing slots at John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports in the last days of the Bush administration has been squelched by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled late Monday that the slot auctions cannot be conducted until a federal court rules on objections from New York airport officials and the airlines.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, had conceived of slot auctions as a method of relieving congestion and delays at the three New York−area airports, which have long been at the bottom of a list of the nation’s most−delayed airports.

The Air Transport Association, representing most U.S. airlines, had sued to halt the online slot auctions, which had been scheduled for Jan. 12.

The airlines had protested, predicting chaos at airports, loss of revenue and alienation of the flying public, much of it from forced cancellation of thousands of reservations.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D−N.Y.), a longtime and vigorous critic of the FAA and the slot auction concept, said “this decision is exactly what the doctor ordered. Slot auctions would cause chaos in the skies and on the ground and must not be bum−rushed through by a lame duck administration.

“This decision should buy enough time for the next administration and Congress to put slot auctions on the shelf for good, then craft a new, workable plan to reduce flight delays and give New York’s airspace and airports the upgrade they need and deserve,” he said.

In its lawsuit, the Air Transport Association said “the FAA significantly understates the irreparable injury in the form of revenue loss, disruption of network schedules and asset utilization and impairment of goodwill that airlines will suffer due to cancellation of thousands of passenger reservatio­ns.”

The Government Accountability Office, an investigation agency of Congress, said on Sept. 30 that the FAA lacked legal authority to conduct such auctions. But more recently, the U.S. Department of Justice overruled the GAO.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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