The Federal Aviation Administration is extending strict limits on the number of flights at New York City's airports for at least another two years, and critics say the move is bad for the industry and for travelers.
In late March, the FAA published notices in the Federal Register extending current limitations on hourly flights at Newark Liberty International, Kennedy and LaGuardia airports during peak times, set at 81 scheduled flights per hour at Kennedy and Newark, and 71 at LaGuardia. The limits, which apply to both departures and arrivals, are designed to curb congestion and flight delays at the busy airports, the FAA says. They have been in place since 2008 and now will be in effect until October 2016.
But the Port Authority is calling for the limitations to be repealed, saying they hurt job creation, limit travel options and increase fares for passengers after the agency has spent billions investing in airport infrastructure -- including improving and lengthening runways to allow for more flight capacity.
"By investing over $8 billion in the region's airports, the Port Authority believes that now is the time to lift slot limitations and modernize our aviation system," the agency, which operates the airports, said in a statement issued to Newsday Tuesday.
Other critics say the limits haven't reduced delays or decreased the demand for air travel in the area. The Global Gateway Alliance, a regional travelers advocacy group that compiles air travel statistics, said in a statement that New York's airports were "the most delayed in the country last year," at a time when the airports are serving more than 111 million passengers a year.
The group's executive director, Stephen Sigmund, added that the implementation of FAA's NextGen program, a state-of-the-art air traffic control system that uses satellites instead of dated radar-based technology, would allow for more flights to operate into and out of the airports, with less congestion.
"We're concerned that the FAA is looking at NextGen only as a delay-reduction vehicle, and we want to make sure they also look at it as a capacity-increasing vehicle," Sigmund said.
And the FAA's rollout of NextGen isn't coming fast enough, he added.
However, the FAA wrote in the Federal Register: "The reasons for issuing the order have not changed appreciably since it was implemented. Without the operational limitations imposed by this Order, the FAA expects severe congestion-related delays would occur at EWR [Newark] and at other airports throughout the National Airspace System."