updated 9/30/2008 5:04:04 PM ET 2008-09-30T21:04:04

Congressional investigators say U.S. aviation officials have no legal authority to auction off flight slots, a scheme the government devised to try to cut crippling traffic jams at major airports.

The report from the Government Accountability Office comes amid a legal fight among airlines, airport operators and the Federal Aviation Administration over the Bush administration's plan to curb flight delays by auctioning slots at New York City-area airports.

The FAA this summer announced a plan for a limited tryout auction at Newark-Liberty Airport.

A letter GAO sent to lawmakers Tuesday concludes the FAA may not auction slots under any current authority, and may also not retain or use proceeds of any such auction.

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