Washington - Following news reports this week that the Department of Transportation plans to implement flight schedule restrictions for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, New Jersey's U.S. Senators, Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), are pressing the Department to take a more regional approach to reducing flight delays - an approach that includes action to reduce delays at Newark Liberty International Airport (http://menendez.senate.gov/pdf/121207lettertoFAAondelays.pdf).
In their letter to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell, the senators cite the lack of attention paid to Newark, the nation's most delayed airport, during the FAA's delay reduction process. They argue that a cap for JFK, in combination with an existing cap at LaGuardia Airport, will force all new entrants into the regional market to use Newark.
"I am certainly hoping that this is a two-step process and that the FAA is preparing to announce action at Newark, but to this point they have taken a narrow approach to this regional problem," said Senator Bob Menendez. "Travelers who use Newark are already at their wit's end with all the delays and growing safety issues. Jamming more flights into an airport already filled to the brim could make the pot boil over."
"Travelers are tired of flights that are delayed or flat-out cancelled. The Bush Administration's proposal will make the situation worse at Newark Airport, cramming too many flights into too few slots," Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said. "We cannot let the Bush Administration dump these excess flights -- and the problems they create -- onto New Jersey."
In August, Senator Menendez first urged the DOT and FAA to consider innovative ideas to reduce flight delays, including flight caps (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=281124), and he has consistently pressed the FAA to take a regional approach to this issue (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=286171).
Senator Lautenberg included $2.5 million in new funding for passenger rights enforcement in the 2008 Department of Transportation funding bill. The money will help improve customer service for all airline passers, including those who are stranded due to flight delays, missed connections and cancellations.
In November, a House-Senate Conference Committee approved two measures sponsored by both New Jersey Senators to reduce delays and congestion in our region. One measure requires the federal government to send Congress a plan to reduce flight delays; the other requires the GAO investigate the Administration's proposed Airspace Redesign Plan.
Text of letter:
December 12, 2007
The Honorable Robert A. Sturgell
Deputy and Acting Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20591
The Honorable Mary E. Peters
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary Peters and Administrator Sturgell:
We write you in response to published reports yesterday about a cap on flights at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK"), which we understand the Administration may be preparing to announce as soon as next week. It is our belief that a focus on only one of the region's overflowing airports threatens to put greater strain on the rest of the airports in the area, especially Newark Liberty International Airport. Therefore, the news that you are prepared to announce flight caps only at JFK troubles us.
As Senators from New Jersey, our most immediate concern is with Newark- the airport with the most flight delays in the nation, where the Government Accountability Office has found questionable safety conditions, and where we have seen a recent spike in low-fuel landings. When the schedule reduction meetings at JFK were first announced, the FAA gave our offices assurances that such meetings for Newark were soon to follow. To date those meetings have not taken place.
A cap on flights at JFK reflects an unbalanced approach to a regional problem. Since caps on flights are already in place at LaGuardia Airport, implementing caps on flights at JFK would force all new market entrants to use Newark Airport. This development would make our most delayed airport face the possibility of having even greater delays. Putting additional strain on Newark when it is already nearing the breaking point makes little sense.
We ask you to provide us with a prompt update on your plans for schedule reduction meetings or to impose flight caps at Newark or otherwise deal with delays at Newark. If you do not believe the plan to cap flights only at JFK will adversely affect Newark, we ask for a prompt explanation. And we also ask you for an explanation of the rationale behind focusing the lion's share of your delay reduction efforts on JFK. Caps only at JFK would be unfair to New Jersey travelers and would only worsen flight delay problems in our region.
We thank you for your attention to the matter.
ROBERT MENENDEZ FRANK LAUTENBERG
United States Senator United States Senator
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