DOT’s flight caps barely improve airport waits

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Federal officials ordered limits on the number of flights at the three New York City-area airports in 2008 to try to remedy the nation’s worst airport delays, but it has made almost no difference.

Anyone who has sat in a jetliner waiting to take off from La Guardia, John F. Kennedy International or Newark Liberty airports knows bad weather is bad news, although the U.S. Department of Transportation report did not factor that into its latest report on the flight limits.

The DOT ordered caps on flights at LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark in 2008 because of horrendous delays at the three airports in the summer of 2007 when 40 percent of incoming flights were delayed or canceled.

Federal officials said the delays might have lessened but barely enough to notice two years later. Delays at the three New York area airports have repercussions for travelers across the country, causing late flights from coast to coast.

One problem is that Federal Aviation Administration officials did not take weather into consideration when they put into effect limits on flights, the report said.

Officials say about half of delays at the three airports are the result of weather conditions.

The report recommends that the FAA consider imposing more limits on flights to the three airports.

That suggestion did not sit well with James May, president of the Air Transport Association of America, which represents major airlines.

“There are better solutions than restraining capacity by imposing flight caps,” May said.

The FAA, meanwhile, is optimistic about a new satellite-based air traffic control system known as NextGen, which allows more planes to fly with less space between them.

Officials are hopeful the system could reduce delays.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 6:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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