JFK Flights May Be Capped (WSJ)
WASHINGTON -- Ahead of a meeting next week with airlines, the Department of Transportation said it will seek to reduce the number of scheduled flights at New York's Kennedy airport by as much as 20% during peak rush hours next year in a bid to relieve congestion.
In August, more than 100 flights were scheduled during certain hours at Kennedy Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Next year, the agency is aiming to cap that at around 80 flights.
JFK is last in on-time departures so far this year among major airports, and near bottom in arrivals, according to DOT statistics. The FAA singled out the airport for scheduling reductions last month.
In recent weeks, FAA officials have increasingly pointed to overscheduling by airlines as a leading cause of delays, which have soared to record levels amid increasing demand for air travel this year. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the agency would rather not impose scheduling restrictions -- a move that can leave consumers with fewer choices during popular travel times -- but said inaction on the part of airlines left regulators with little choice.
"Our strong preference is to develop market-based solutions that will address delays and preserve passenger choice," Ms. Peters said in a statement. "But we will consider scheduling reductions as a last resort in order to prevent a repeat of this summer's nightmare delays."
A trade group representing airlines objected to the move. "This is a disappointing decision. Slashing operations at JFK alone will not solve the congestion problem but will shut the door on growth for our country's leading international gateway," said James May, CEO of the Air Transport Association. "We know that there are better solutions to New York's capacity needs and we are committed to working with FAA to put them into effect."
Airlines say the high-level of scheduling during certain hours reflects consumer demand, and they are pushing to get the FAA to redesign New York's airspace to improve efficiency in the region. That effort is proceeding slowly amid objection from local communities. Airlines are also hoping to convince the military to open restricted airspace during periods of bad weather to free up additional airways.
Next week, the FAA will meet individually with each carrier operating at JFK to determine exactly how many flights they can operate during rush hours. It is shaping up to be the most contentious round of scheduling negotiations since a similar process for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport dragged on for two weeks in 2004.
The Chicago round of negotiations mostly involved two dominant carriers, United and American Airlines. The situation at JFK is more complicated and involves many domestic and international carriers, suggesting the talks could stretch for several weeks. The FAA would likely seek to apportion any cuts in the number of flights equally among carriers.