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Port Authority plans to block auction-acquired flights

A week after announcing several of its own initiatives designed at relieving congestion and reducing delays at New York airports, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Monday announced plans to block any flights to its metropolitan area airports that result from plans announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to auction flight slots.

PANYNJ’s Notice of Proposed Action would disallow flight departure or arrival slots “issued by auction or similar process.” The Port Authority and “a vast majority of airlines” believe the federal government’s auction plans would have a negative impact on air travel and customers at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA) by increasing ticket prices and doing nothing to relieve delays or mitigate congestion, according to a statement.

Airports Council International-North America noted its disappointed in the DOT’s continued pursuit of slot auctions, rather than working with PANYNJ and air carriers to develop an effective approach to congestion management and air traffic improvements.  “DOT’s illegal approach fails to recognize the primary role of local airport proprietors in managing congestion at their airports and seeks unlawfully to usurp the proprietary right of the Port Authority to control how its facilities are used,” said Greg Principato, ACI’s president. “Slot auctions do not promote competition and could further endanger small community air service.”

The authority also believes such a move would cause 25 small- and medium-sized markets to lose service. The Port Authority has expressed a need for the government to act by upgrading air traffic control technology, a request echoed by several aviation trade groups such as the Airports Council International-North America and the Air Transport Association.

When asked about PANYNJ’s announcement, DOT spokesman Bill Mosley referred ARN to a statement. “We are extremely disappointed that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would attempt to frustrate the Department’s efforts to deal effectively with the chronic delay problem in the New York region,” the statement reads. “We will continue to pursue effective mechanisms to reduce the impacts on aviation delays to passengers while preserving the competition and choices that Americans have come to expect when they travel by air.”