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Reports: Airport delays, crowding could be the norm

The stressful passenger crowding, delays and congestion common at area airports near the holiday season could become the norm, according to two reports released Wednesday.

The reports from the U.S. Travel Association and the Eno Center for Transportation warn that America's aviation system is reaching capacity, particularly in the New York City area at Kennedy, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports.

"The problems in New York that exist today will not only happen faster, but will impact the rest of the country faster," said Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy at U.S. Travel. "Those airports are critical."

The U.S. Travel Association's report, "Thanksgiving in the Skies," said each week Kennedy Airport already experiences a day as jammed as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2011 and will be in that position every day by 2022; Newark will hit the weekly mark in 2017 and LaGuardia will see that weekly level of congestion in 2021. The Eno Center report, meanwhile, said Kennedy and Newark are each at their respective "capacity limit."

The congestion problems at these airports are attributed to the outdated technology used in air traffic control and the tight airspace that the three metropolitan airports occupy.

"The problem is primarily in the sky," said Stephen Sigmund, the executive director of Global Gateway Alliance, a New York-focused advocacy group. "We're still using the radar system that was designed in World War II."

Sigmund said the Federal Aviation Administration needs to fully roll out the NextGen system in New York-area airports faster. The NextGen system uses satellites and GPS to boost airspace capacity and make airports operate more efficiently.Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said the agency has asked the FAA to make the New York region a priority for NextGen air traffic control.

"The new technology is critical to help meet burgeoning travel needs at our airports, which had nearly 110 million passengers last year and which are expected to grow substantially to 170 million passengers by 2032," Marsico said in a statement.

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