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Tue, Dec 11, 2007

Virgin America Fears Losing JFK Slots

Decision Coming Soon On Delay-Relieving Measures

Virgin America is trying to hold onto its landing slots at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after only four months of use, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

The airline told the FAA it should be exempt from caps now under consideration at JFK over traffic delays. The start-up airline has requested the FAA "set aside an adequate number of scheduled arrival and departure times" at JFK, as debate over different proposal to curb congestion are on the table by the delay-plagued airport. 

The FAA wants to slash JFK flights by as much as 20 percent to improve on-time performance. The FAA has said it would prefer not to implement caps.

Virgin America is just one of many airlines that want to avoid actions by regulators at JFK.

The airline says the airport is a crucial gateway for domestic passengers. Virgin America began flying last August with coast-to-coast routes.

JFK has hit new lows as far as on-time performance is concerned this year. Over one third of the flights were late in 2007.

Virgin America, which has eight round-trips daily to JFK is part of a group of smaller carriers that oppose any caps at the New York hub airport. Other airports nationwide that fear similar measures by the FAA are watching action by the FAA over delays.

If the FAA does order the caps it might send an anti-competition message to smaller carriers.

"That would send a message to the entire industry that (larger) carriers can control these airports," said Sam Skinner, vice chairman at Virgin America. No reduction in number of flights by other airlines was specified.

But rival carriers countered the upstart airlines point of view.

"There are carriers that have served JFK for many years, who have invested millions into JFK," said spokesman David Castelveter of airline trade group Air Transport Association, which represents large carriers like Delta and American. The larger airlines handle a combined 80 percent of JFK passengers, according to the group.

An aviation rule making committee will make recommendations to the FAA this month. US Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters will confer with the White House on a JFK plan that will be implemented in 2008.

FMI: www.virginamerica.com, www.jfk-airport.net/

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