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FAA orders flight reductions at LaGuardia

Bloomberg News / January 15, 2009
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WASHINGTON - US airlines must eliminate four flights an hour at New York's LaGuardia Airport to help reduce delays that were the worst in the country the last two years, the Transportation Department said.

Carriers have to say which trips they're willing to give up voluntarily by Feb. 2, the department ordered yesterday. The changes take effect by May 31 and remain through Oct. 24. The agency disclosed the plan last month to pare flights to 71 an hour from 75.

The number in place since 2001 is being lowered because it exceeds the airport's capacity to keep traffic moving during foul weather, leading to backups that can persist through the day. LaGuardia ranked last among the 32 major US airports in on-time arrival performance in 2007 and the first 11 months of last year, the department said.

As the closest airport to Manhattan, LaGuardia draws business travelers willing to pay top-tier fares to fly on short notice. Expansion possibilities at the site are limited by Bowering and Flushing bays.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc., and US Airways Group are the airlines that carry the most passengers at LaGuardia, according to the airport's operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The facility has had flight limits since the late 1960s. Delays surged in 2000 after Congress allowed some carriers to exceed the ceiling. The FAA in 2001 cut about half of the 300 added flights and set the cap at 75.

The Air Transport Association, the trade group for major US carriers, called the lower cap expected, and said the solution should be new technology that expands airport capacity.

LaGuardia was the most congested US airport in 2008, with just 62.9 percent of flights arriving on time.

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