Airlines ask U.S. to withdraw NY airport slot sales

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:30pm EST

The exhaust from the engines of a commercial aircraft create the illusion of a solar flare as it flies in front of the sun in Wilmington, Delaware, May 18, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

The exhaust from the engines of a commercial aircraft create the illusion of a solar flare as it flies in front of the sun in Wilmington, Delaware, May 18, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. airlines have asked the Obama administration to withdraw a government plan for boosting competition and reducing congestion by auctioning takeoff and landing rights at New York-area airports.

The chief lobbying group for the major carriers asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to swiftly rescind last year's Bush administration initiative.

"As you noted at your confirmation hearing, auctioning slots does not make sense as a tool to address congestion," James May, chief executive of the Air Transport Association, said in a letter to LaHood dated January 22.

May urged LaHood to act before further litigation on the matter. Airlines sued to block the auctions on grounds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lacked the authority to carry them out.

A U.S. appeals court stayed the auction plan last month pending further court review.

The Bush administration had sought to sell up to 10 percent of rights for takeoffs and landings at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in New York, and Newark in New Jersey, as a way to streamline operations and facilitate new service.

LaGuardia, Newark and JFK, all popular with business travelers, are among the worst airports in the United States for delays and congestion. Airlines tend to pack their schedules and run many flights with feeder aircraft, especially at LaGuardia.

The tie-ups add millions of dollars annually in industry operating costs, and tend to ripple across the country and affect flights in other cities.

US Airways Group, Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines Inc, American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp, and United Airlines, a unit of UAL Corp, all have hubs or other operations at one or more of the three airports.

(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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