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Tue, Aug 14, 2007

Is The ATA Right? Small Jets ARE Causing Big Delays At LaGuardia...

...But Those Planes Are Airliners, Not Bizjets

The skies around New York's LaGuardia International Airport are becoming increasingly thick with small jets... but don't be too quick to blame corporate aviation operators.

The Wall Street Journal reports during the 5:00 pm arrivals rush into LaGuardia last Wednesday, over half of the 41 jets trying to land at LGA were regional aircraft. And five of those 21 planes weren't even RJs... but turboprop puddlejumpers.

Given the limited space available at LGA, wouldn't it make sense for the airlines to use fewer, larger aircraft? The Wall Street Journal reports one would think so, but for two reasons: the airlines like having more flights available with smaller planes, and so do passengers.

The WSJ also notes this problem is often lost in the rhetoric surrounding the FAA's plan to revamp the nation's airspace... and, on how to fund the NextGen system. The FAA and Air Transport Association -- lobbying group for the nation's largest airlines -- march lockstep in their beliefs small corporate aircraft are increasingly to blame for clogging the nation's air traffic control system... but seem to overlook the fact airlines are also flying a greater number of smaller aircraft.

As ANN reported earlier this year, the airlines have objected vehemently to the FAA's proposal to limit the number of arrivals and departures into LaGuardia... including strict limits on aircraft with less than 105 seats. 

On Monday, the FAA denied a request by the ATA and Regional Airline Association to extend the comment period on the proposal by 30 days; comments are due by September 6.

It isn't difficult to see why the smaller airliners are causing problems. At LaGuardia, half of all flights now involve RJs and turboprops, according to the WSJ. The situation is much the same at other large hub airports, including Chicago's O'Hare, Newark International, and New York's JFK International.

An interesting study by Eclat Consulting in Reston, VA paints the picture in vivid colors: from 2000 through 2006, US airlines grounded a net 385 large planes -- while adding a whopping 1,029 regional jets, according to data from Airline Monitor.

In addition to providing passengers with more travel options, airlines like using regional planes for other reasons, too: when full, RJs can offer lower per-trip operating costs than larger airliners. The planes are often flown by newer, lower-paid pilots, as well.

Lately, airlines have taken to outfitting their regional jets with more plush accomodations, including first class sections -- making the smaller planes even more attractive to business fliers, who already enjoy the greater flexibility in scheduling the smaller planes provide.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.airlines.org, Read The FAA's Proposal For LGA (.pdf)

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