Image: JFK airport
Justin Lane  /  EPA
The prospect of trimming the number of planes allowed to fly in and out of JFK has alarmed some airlines, consumer advocates, and even a variety of New York City tourism groups, who see any curb on travel as bad for business.
updated 10/26/2007 8:28:23 PM ET 2007-10-27T00:28:23

Business groups and the agency that operates John F. Kennedy International Airport say the air hub could be hurt if federal officials try to fight chronic flight delays there by trimming the number of planes allowed to fly.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said last week that it believed the congested airport can reliably handle a maximum of 80 or 81 flights per hour — far fewer than the 100 or more now scheduled for peak travel periods.

Over two days of meetings this week, federal authorities asked the airlines to voluntarily cut back by next summer, or face a mandatory order slimming their schedules.

The prospect of a cap, though, has alarmed some airlines, consumer advocates, and even a variety of New York City tourism groups, who see any curb on travel as bad for business.

Opponents criticized the idea Friday during a news conference held at the Manhattan headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.

The Authority's executive director, Anthony Shorris, called flight caps "bad for airports," and said the limit proposed by the Department of Transportation could force JFK to handle 10,000 fewer passengers per day.

"It's actually no solution at all," Shorris said.

Slideshow: The Big Apple David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said it would "take a bad situation and make it worse" by forcing airlines to raise prices, cut service to smaller cities, or offer a less convenient schedule.

"Turning away passengers is not going to be good for our economy as a whole," said Diana Torres of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group.

Those groups, and others representing airlines, say they would rather see the Federal Aviation Administration boost capacity at JFK through a variety of measures, including a long-planned airspace redesign and the implementation of better navigation and air traffic control systems.

Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Turmail acknowledged in a written statement that scheduling reductions would "limit competition, inflate ticket prices and stifle consumer choice."

He added: "Allowing a repeat of last summer's record-setting airline delays, however, is simply not an option."

Transportation officials have spent the past few weeks soliciting other ideas from airlines and aviation groups as to how to better reduce delays.

An FAA group meeting regularly on the issue is scheduled to make some recommendations by December.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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