Image: Waiting their turn
Amy Sancetta  /  AP file
Planes are seen lining up on a LaGuardia airport tarmac in New York. The City Comptroller on Sunday said area airports are getting worse every year, eroding New York City's ability to compete globally.
updated 12/2/2007 11:23:54 PM ET 2007-12-03T04:23:54

Flight delays at New York airports are getting worse every year at a rate much faster than other U.S. cities, polluting the air and eroding the city's ability to compete in the global marketplace, a city official said Sunday.

In a 36-page report, City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. said the on-time performance of commercial aircraft at the three major regional airports was 13 percent below the national average — or nearly three times more than in 2003, he said.

"One of New York City's major competitive advantages is its outstanding air connections with the rest of the nation and the world. This advantage is now being degraded by the declining reliability of air travel into and out of New York," Thompson said in a statement.

Thompson said the Federal Aviation Administration needed to modernize an "antiquated" air traffic control system, train more controllers and stop overscheduling airline flights during peak hours.

He recommended temporary caps on flight numbers at John F. Kennedy and Newark-Liberty International Airports. Three of four of the nation's delayed flights come from Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia Airports.

He said his recommendations could ease delays and save airlines and passengers nearly $260 million a year at Kennedy Airport alone.

FAA spokesman Brian Turmail said the White House announced last September that New York airport delays would be given "special priority" to speed changes. The agency, he said, has taken several steps including a redesign of East Coast flight routes to ease congestion at peak hours.

"What we are looking for are more suggestions as to how the situation might be improved," Turmail said. "There have been some, but this is a little like relying on a handkerchief when a parachute is needed — it's not going to be enough."

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