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Auction of takeoff, landing 'slots' set

Associated Press / October 10, 2008
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WASHINGTON - Federal officials are pushing ahead with an experiment to reduce flight delays around the nation by auctioning takeoff and landing times at New York City-area airports, where most delays begin.

Bush administration officials are racing to get the plan in place before they leave office in three months; airlines and airports are sprinting to court to stop them.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters disclosed final rules yesterday to begin auctioning "slots" at the three major New York-area airports: John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark-Liberty. Some of their flight patterns include routes over Connecticut.

Under her plan, the auction winners would be revealed Jan. 12, about a week before President Bush leaves office.

Federal authorities are focused on New York's airspace because roughly two-thirds of US flight delays are caused by backups at those airports.

Peters is adamant the auctions will unclog crowded skies.

"Without slot auctions, a small number of airlines will profit while travelers bear the brunt of higher fares, fewer choices, and deteriorating service," Peters said in a statement.

The government will gradually auction up to 10 percent of the landing and takeoff slots the airlines operate at the airports.

The Air Transport Association, which represents commercial air carriers, said it will ask a judge to stop the government. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the city's airports, has already joined a lawsuit over the issue and vowed to block any planes using auction slots from arriving at their terminals.

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