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New York-Airport Flight Caps Fail to Curb Delays

New York airport flight limits haven’t been successful in curbing delays and need to be adjusted, a U.S. Transportation Department inspector general report found.

Federal limits imposed at New York’s Kennedy and Newark, New Jersey’s Liberty, and maintained at New York’s LaGuardia, in 2008 brought “little meaningful improvement in New York’s delay situation” that year, Lou Dixon, an assistant inspector general, said in a report posted today on the agency website.

“Although delays have since declined due to a drop in air traffic, once the economy recovers and flight volume returns, delays will likely rise again and increase passenger dissatisfaction,” Dixon wrote.

The Federal Aviation Administration extended last year the flight caps to Oct. 29, 2011, giving it time to craft a long-term solution for cutting flight delays at the airports. The three New York-area airports are the second-, third- and fourth- most congested in the nation this year through August, with fewer than 75 percent of flights arriving on time, according to federal data. San Francisco has the nation’s most congested airport.

Dixon’s report doesn’t suggest what the new caps for the airport should be. She said the FAA realizes the limits “may be set too high and has taken steps to improve them.”

Newark and Kennedy takeoffs and landings are limited to 81 an hour from 6 a.m. to 10:59 p.m. daily; LaGuardia flights are restricted to 71 hourly from 6 a.m. to 9:59 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 9:59 p.m. on Sunday.

The FAA placed the cap on LaGuardia in 2001 after letting carriers exceed limits the previous year that had been in place since 1968. The FAA extended the LaGuardia cap in 2006 and in 2009 lowered it to 71 from 75.

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