The busiest runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport will be shut down for four months, but two of the airport’s major airlines said they are prepared to deal with the changes by reducing their flights.
Starting next Monday, Runway 13-31 at the airport will be closed for repairs that will widen the runway and replace the asphalt with concrete to handle larger aircraft, according to the Port Authority of New York and Federal Aviation Administration.
Although the $376.3 million project is designed to reduce delays, there were concerns the project could affect hundreds of flights from all over the world, since that runway handles one-third of the airport’s operations and half of its departures.
Mike Sammartino, the FAA’s director for system operations, said the agency, the Port Authority and the airlines would be working to cut back flights during the construction period to give passengers fewer hassles and delays. After analysis, the FAA and the PA decided that it would be best for both passengers and the airport if there were 1,167 flight operations a day, according to Sammartino.
By sticking to that plan, JFK will have an average of about 30 minutes in delays for each flight, according to the director.
“If airlines maintained the basic schedule, the analysis has showed that we should not experience any more delays,” he said.
Representatives from JetBlue Airlines, which operates out of JFK’s newly remodeled Terminal 5, and American Airlines, which operates out of Terminal 8, said they have voluntarily agreed to meet that flight quota.
The Forest Hills-based airline said it will be reducing its departures by 10 percent during construction, but that decrease would not be too detrimental to business because there are fewer flights in the winter months at around 150 a day, compared with 180 daily in the summer.
JetBlue’s winter schedule will continue until the end of June, when three-fourths of the runway is scheduled to be reopened.
American Airlines also announced that it would be extending its winter, low departure schedule into late spring. The airline did not give specifics as to how many flights will be departing from Kennedy, which has led the nation in the number of delays, but promised its decrease in flights would not greatly affect passengers.
“We are optimistic about maintaining smooth operations from JFK during the Bay Runway construction, but much will depend on weather conditions as always,” American Airlines said in a statement.
Even though it is reducing its flights during the spring, American Airlines is set to introduce three new destinations that will take off from JFK in the coming months. Passengers can fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, starting April 6, Madrid starting May 1 and Manchester in England, starting May 13.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said he was concerned about the changes the construction would bring to the airport but was confident that the FAA, PA and airlines had worked out the logistics. He noted that the construction would help the area not only because it is providing thousands of jobs but also making arrivals and departures more efficient at the airport.
“I’ve always believed you need short-term pain for long term gain,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2010 Community News Group
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