| WASHINGTON, Sept 21
WASHINGTON, Sept 21 The U.S. government has taken
the first step toward possibly limiting flights as early as next
summer at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, one of the busiest
and one of the worst for delays and congestion.
The Federal Aviation Administration has taken the rare early
step of asking major carriers for their JFK scheduling
information for next spring and summer, according to a regulatory
notice obtained by Reuters.
A similar request also was sent to airlines at New Jersey's
Newark international airport, another location hit hard by delays
Airlines must respond to both requests by Oct. 11.
The FAA only reviews schedule information this far in advance
at a handful of airports nationally, and only controls flight
operations at two, New York LaGuardia and Chicago O'Hare.
"We want to determine if there will be periods where
scheduling exceeds capacity," said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.
The scheduling request, Brown said, does not mean the agency
has decided to limit flight operations.
But the FAA said in its notice to airlines: "This could
result in operational limits during peak hours."
JetBlue Airways (JBLU.O) is based at JFK and Delta Air Lines
(DAL.N) operates two terminals there. In a statement, JetBlue
said it supported FAA efforts aimed at "getting ahead of
congestion" and encouraged the agency to immediately convene a
meeting of airlines to discuss scheduling.
"We look to their leadership to help resolve congestion
issues," JetBlue said.
American Airlines AMR.N operates international and some
domestic service at Kennedy. United Airlines UAUA.O has
significantly reduced its presence at JFK.
The International Air Transport Association, which represents
international carriers, said the status quo of delays was not
acceptable, noting that airlines waste fuel and emit more
emissions if arrival and departure times are extended. About 100
international carriers serve JFK.
"By reviewing schedules in advance, we hope this will help
FAA and Port Authority improve efficiency and better plan for the
peak operations next summer," an IATA spokesman said.
Flight delays and departures are on a record pace for 2007,
prompting consumer dissatisfaction and congressional attention to
Airlines are trying to maximize revenues to keep their modest
recovery on track and would not welcome government interference.
Carriers argue they are just meeting demand and that other
aviation operations, like corporate jets, play a role in
congestion, especially in New York.
Major airlines nationally operated more than 4.3 million
flights for the first seven months of 2007, and reported 1.08
million delays. More than 106,000 flights have been canceled. In
July alone, airlines scheduled a record number of flights, more
Airline operations at JFK jumped 23 percent between October
2006 and July 2007 compared to the same period a year earlier,
Transportation Department figures show.
Average daily arrivals with delays greater than one hour at
JFK increased 114 percent and the airport's on-time arrival rate
fell from 69.7 percent to 61.2 percent. JFK's arrival rate in
July alone was the worst of any major airport, 57 percent.
Marion Blakey, whose term as FAA administrator ended earlier
this month, said in a speech before she left office that airlines
needed to "take a step back" on scheduling, especially in the
East, or the FAA could intervene.
According to the notice, the FAA wants to review scheduling
between March and November 2008, particularly during the 7 a.m.
to 10 a.m. and the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. slots. Those periods are
peak times for business travel.