Segment 2 Of 2 Previous Hearing Segment(1)
SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 THE SLOT LOTTERY AT LAGUARDIA AIRPORT
Tuesday, December 5, 2000
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, D.C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2 p.m., in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. DUNCAN. We want to welcome everybody to this hearing. We are a couple of minutes early. Due to a change of our schedule about 21/2 hours ago, I think many members are flying home, so we are not going to wait. We don't believe that we will have quite as many members today, but I want to welcome the members' panel that we have.
We follow a policy in this subcommittee of allowing members to make their statements. We do not ask any questions of the members because we have a chance to discuss this with them on the floor or at other times, and we know that all of members have busy schedules. So we will go ahead and start with the members who are here and proceed as others arrive. We are going to do that before committee members make opening statements.
Which one of you was here first?
We will start then, I believe, with Mr. Crowley who was here first and then Ms. Maloney and Ms. Slaughter. So we will first hear from the Honorable Joseph Crowley.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JOSEPH CROWLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mr. CROWLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am aware that there are many people who wish to testify before you today. I will keep my testimony brief.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The problem that has plagued LaGuardia in recent years must be addressed in order to ensure the safety of the passengers, as well as the citizens of Queens who surround that airport. These problems must be addressed to contain the environmental impact of the airplanes on the surroundings. These problems must be addressed to facilitate the continued development of the Northeast, and these problems must be addressed to prevent potential disasters in the future.
How did we get here? The Federal Aviation Administration began limiting the number of slots at LaGuardia Airport in 1969 under a regulation called the High Density Rule. The FAA had the foresight to restrict the number of flights coming in and out of LaGuardia to protect the airport against gridlock, collisions in the air and the adverse environmental impact of overcrowded air space.
Earlier this year, Members of Congress and the Clinton administration made a strong push to lift the High Density Rule. This would have had a catastrophic effect on not only LaGuardia Airport but on the entire tristate area. I fought alongsidewith the Queens delegation and tristate delegation in many respectsto keep the High Density Rule in place through the year 2007. While we are pleased that the High Density Rule is going to remain in place until 2007, thus maintaining the limit on large aircraft, compromises had to be made to keep this rule intact.
That compromise was to provide exemptions for regional jet service between small- and medium-sized nonhub airports and LaGuardia Airport. Unfortunately, the intent of this compromise does not reflect the realities travelers and residents are experiencing every day at and around LaGuardia Airport. What was the intent.
In my view, the purpose of granting these exemptions was to force economic development in the region, provide new entrants an opportunity to compete in this market, and increase flights to underserved airports in upstate New York that are in high demand. What was the result? A complete feeding frenzy at LaGuardia Airport.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Exemptions filed for service to and from places such as Saratoga Springs, Buffalo, Rochester and Albany have taken a backseat to cities that already have a sufficient level of service to and from them. That simply was not the intent, in my view, of this provision in AIR21.
I travel via LaGuardia Airport on an average of two to three times a week, so I can certainly commiserate with anyone who frequents this airport. I have sat on the runway and told I am number 38 in line for takeoff. I have waited on the tarmac, I have had my flights cancelled; more often than not, I spend more time on the tarmac than in the air.
This situation cannot continue. Airports in the United States have runways that can accommodate 35 operations pereach hour. This is the industry standard. The runway at LaGuardia should have no exception to that. However, the present situation has required the airport to squeeze in as many as 96 operations in each hour. This level of congestion has the potential for disaster, particularly in one of the most densely populated communities in the entire world.
There are issues on which I am not willing to compromise. Public safety is not an issue I am willing to compromise on. It has been said that the FAA does not have the legal authority to restrict the number of flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport, and I understand that this subcommittee may believe that as well. If that is the case, who will protect the safety of the passengers on the planes and the airport's neighbors in Queens? Who has that authority? What is preventing the addition of 2,000 additional flights at LaGuardia Airport? Where do we draw the line? Do we have to wait for an accident to occur?
Section 41715(b) of title 49 clearly states that nothing in AIR21 shall be construed as affecting the FAA's authority for the safety and movement of aircraft. The addition of new flights would seriously hamper the FAA's ability to carry out its important duty.
What is the solution? Unfortunately, LaGuardia is squeezed into a mere 660 acres of land with no room for expansion. As a result, we must do the best we can with the space we have within guidelines that lend themselves to safe and efficient air travel.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I believe that the FAA has recognized the need for a change in the status quo and has taken steps to remedy the situation. More needs to be done. The slot lottery will effectively reduce the number of exempt flights from 300 to.
Mr. DUNCAN. We have so many witnesses.
Mr. CROWLEY. I will wrap it up.
no more than 159 each day, thereby relieving the added pressure that exists at LaGuardia.
This is an important first step in controlling a difficult situation at the airport and I applaud the FAA for their action. Any attempt to nullify the result of the lottery would be irresponsible and would only exacerbate the current scenario.
We need to further scale back flights at LaGuardia. I also believe that we need to revisit the issue of deregulation. I am not saying this solely as a representative of LaGuardia, but as someone who has a family that lives under the flight path of LaGuardia Airport. We have been good neighbors. We are not NIMBYs; we simply want LaGuardia to be a good neighbor to us.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Crowley. I am sorry to try to rush you. You are welcome to stay.
Mr. CROWLEY. I am going to stay.
TESTIMONY OF HON. CAROLYN MALONEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you, Chairman Duncan and Ranking Member Lipinski and other members of the committee, for allowing me and the entire Queens delegation to testify today. Our chair of Queens, Claire Shulman, is here, the Borough President, and this meeting in Congress is really one that we practically have weekly in her office on this escalating crisis at LaGuardia Airport.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I asked to testify this afternoon because the flight scheduling situation at LaGuardia Airport has become unmanageable, resulting in massive delays and creating a safety hazard. While not an ideal solution, I am very supportive of the FAA slot lottery as a stopgap answer to this escalating problem.
As you know, congestion today at LaGuardia Airport has reached a crisis level. In recent months, as many as a quarter of all the delays recorded in the United States have occurred at LaGuardia Airport, with some flights spending more time on the tarmac at LaGuardia than in the air. The resulting delays cause ripple effects across the country as planes stack up coming in and out of New York and as travelers miss connections.
Numerous press accounts have described LaGuardia as a nightmare for travelers. On November 27, ground delays at the airport were as high as 6 hours. A story in today's Los Angeles Times skewers the airport with the headline, and I quote, ''Welcome to LaGuardia, enjoy your stay.'' .
While LaGuardia has always been busy, the airport has experienced a sudden increase in flights because of the unexpected large number of new flights this year. The consequence of this new schedule has been to utterly disrupt normal airport operations and to increase safety concerns. With schedules squeezing more than 90 takeoffs and landings an hour, LaGuardia's two intersecting runways and the people who manage them are being pushed to the limit.
There are no more peaks and valleys in the airport traveling. Airport workers are faced with high stress, packed schedules, from early in the day to late. The resulting strain on facilities and people is creating an increased safety concern for travelers and the communities on even the best weather days.
When Congress passed AIR21 with the High Density Rule limits that were preserved at LaGuardia to guard against this very overcrowding, many in Congress advocated no limits at all. As a frequent user of LaGuardia, I can tell you even before AIR21 there were delays. Now it is just unbelievable. You will get on the plane, move away and they will say you are number 25 and the delays continue.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 It was certainly not the intent of Congress to create this type of delay logjam and, really, safety crisis with the intersectingwe have only one intersection. There is no way to expand. We are surrounded by water, and we need to support FAA's lottery to limit the number of flights taking off and coming into LaGuardia.
I would really request to have the rest of my comments put into the record. Mr. Duncan, I have to thank you for letting all of us testify. I have appealed to a number of committees that sometimes do not recognize the right of minority members to testify and I appreciate your being here today and hope that you will listen carefully to all of the testimony from everyone that is here today.
Mr. DUNCAN. We are going to try to let everyone testify, but we will have to stick strictly to the 5-minute rule because we do have a large number of witnesses to go, although for the members who got here a few minutes late, I will say that we have always followed a policy in this subcommittee of not asking questions of members because we have chances to discuss things later on and we know that you have busy schedules. Once you make your statements, you are welcome to stay or free to go.
Now, I believe Ms. Slaughter was next.
TESTIMONY OF HON. LOUISE McINTOSH SLAUGHTER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Thank you, Mr. Duncan. I want to speak now for the Fourth District in the State of New York.
First, I want to take a moment to praise you and Mr. Lipinski for your leadership on these issues. I have been here several times before, and I appreciate it very much. Your stewardship of AIR21 in Congress was remarkable, and it shows the good Congress can do when it works to craft a solution.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I am not here today to deny that there is a problem at LaGuardia Airport. LaGuardia posts more delays than any other airport in the United States. In October, nearly a third of its flights were late, not to mention the dozens of cancellations that it logs on an average day. I believe there is clear authority for the FAA to address this problem, but the FAA and airport authority have to take into account the intent of AIR21 when addressing these concerns.
Congress made it clear in the legislation that communities like Rochester must have access to busy airports like LaGuardia. Communities across this countryand this is no exaggerationlive and die based on their access to New York City. We have learned the hard way that economic development cannot occur without affordable, accessible air transportation.
I enter this debate as a Member of Congress who represents upstate New York, a region of the country that is reeling from the impact of high fares in recent years. According to the Department of Transportation, my district has the fourth highest air fares in the country with one dominant carrier. We are down from two, being second in the country, and I am happy for that. We are not a community that is accustomed to finding itself at the mercy of any outside entity. Indeed, we are the proud headquarters of a number of Fortune 500 companies such as Eastman Kodak, Xerox Corporation, Bausch & Lomb, and Johnson & Johnson. Hundreds of small and midsized high technology firms have grown in our region over the past several years, and they are critical to the life blood of our community. But my community's success has been continually threatened by exorbitant air fares and the inability to get a decent flight schedule.
Many firms are moving out in their quest for cheaper air fares. Today a flight from Rochester to Chicago will cost about $1,200, but access to New York City for us has been a recent success story to some extent. Last year, I worked feverishly to ensure that New York's newest carrier, JetBlue was able to secure access to slots at JFK Airport and soon thereafter JetBlue began service between New York City and Rochester, and the effect has been phenomenal. In response to JetBlue's low-cost fares, the competing airlines have cut the competing fares by almost 50 percent to the New York City destinations, including Newark.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 After Congress passed AIR21, established carriers such as Delta, U.S. Airways and Continental have announced new service from Rochester to New York. You can imagine what welcome news that is to us.
Now I fear that this progress might be in jeopardy. It is not yet clear what the effect of yesterday's lottery will be on my district since the airlines have not shared how their new restrictions will impact individual routes. But like many communities, Rochester finds itself at the mercy of the marketing department of a handful of carriers.
I would like to raise an issue that I have discussed before your committee on numerous occasions. When the slots were first distributed, DOT made clear to the airlines that slots were government property owned by the American people, not the airlines and not the local airport authorities. The government reserved the right to reclaim them to promote fair competition, and with the growing move by large airlines to consolidate slots, such action is long overdue. It is high time that the FAA seriously looked at reallocating a portion of slots held by incumbent carriers at LaGuardia to ensure service for underserved communities.
And finally, Mr. Chairman, as I noted before, a critical component of AIR21 was to ensure that underserved communities like Rochester were not shut out of important airports like LaGuardia. Congress has made it clear that communities must have access to busy airports. What the FAA set forth yesterday is a temporary fix, and I strongly suspect that your committee will be forced to hold further hearings on this issue, but I urge the committee to make it clear that any effort by Federal agencies or airport authorities to undermine this commitment will be swiftly addressed by Congress.
Generations of Americans have spent millions of tax dollars to build the aviation infrastructure, and now these same taxpayers find themselves shut out of important airports. This committee has demonstrated its commitment to fliers in the past, and I urge it to stay the course. And I thank you for your kind attention.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF HON. NITA M. LOWEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mrs. LOWEY. Thank you, Chairman Duncan and Ranking Member Lipinski, for the opportunity to testify today. I am here with my colleagues from the Queens delegation, our Borough President, Claire Shulman, to express our support for the FAA's decision to hold a slot lottery at LaGuardia Airport. This is an issue of great importance to the residents of Queens and it is essential that a full discussion of air traffic at LaGuardia take into account their concerns.
I know you will agree that the Nation's aviation system is at a crossroads. The current capacity at airports and the state of the air traffic control system cannot adequately serve the ever-increasing number of air travelers. As that number increases, we will need strategies to meet their demands and ensure that the aviation system will function as it should.
Anyone who has taken a flight in or out of LaGuardia in the last year knows that the airport has reached its capacity.
My Queens colleagues and I agree that more needs to be done to solve the problem of congestion in the aviation system. We know that we cannot sacrifice the rights of consumers or the people who happen to live near an airport in our attempts to increase capacity.
LaGuardia Airport provides a perfect case in point. AIR21 allowed small regional aircraft flying to underserved communities to receive immediate slot exemptions at LaGuardia. What we envisioned were airlines providing more service to places like upstate New York, which desperately needs new service, or other smaller cities that do not have direct flights to New York. We did not envision that the airlines would use this limited exemption to advance their competitive advantage at the airport, flying more flights to popular vacation destinations.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 After the Department of Transportation issued rules on the AIR21 slot exemptions, more than 600 applications for flights were filed with the FAA. As you can imagine, the spectre of 600 more flights at LaGuardia upset regular travelers and the surrounding community. Already local residents are subjected to constant airport noise from early in the morning until late at night. The prospect of hundreds of new flights roaring over their homes has infuriated local residents. And passengers are equally incensed.
I can attest firsthand to just how big a mess LaGuardia has become. I cannot depend on any Washington-New York flight, regardless of the time or day of the week, to take off from or arrive at LaGuardia on time. I am now resigned to the fact that I will be waiting on the tarmac for at least an hour while the captain tries to keep up with the ever-changing queue. First, you are number 35, then 26. Then there is another reason. We get a different excuse every 15 to 20 minutes.
Frankly, we are not the only ones. Our constituents have completely lost faith in the aviation system. They don't know who is at fault. We know that everyone plays a part in the problem, but in this case, criticism of the FAA's action sends the wrong message.
The FAA has the authority to maintain the integrity, safety and effectiveness of the aviation system. What the FAA sees is an airport that has 15 percent more delays than a year ago. LaGuardia alone accounted for 39 percent of the Nation's air traffic delays due to volume, 23 percent of all delays in September 2000. Even the most casual observer can tell you that LaGuardia is an airport in chaos, and the idea that somehow hundreds of new flights can be shoehorned into an airport already over capacity insults our intelligence.
Further expanding LaGuardia is just not an option. This is a World War II era airport that was never designed to handle the number of flights we have today. Because it is surrounded by an established community on one side and a navigable waterway on the other, there is no reasonable way to add an additional runway, which is the only means of measurably expanding LaGuardia's capacity.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The FAA, faced with a difficult situation, is using its authority to ensure safe and effective operation of LaGuardia by placing an hourly limit on operations set from past experience. The lottery conducted yesterday allocated the available capacity fairly and consistent with the intent of AIR21. By allowing smaller carriers and new entrants serving smaller markets to draw first, the FAA gave priority to those carriers that AIR21 was designed to help.
Most galling about the race to apply for as many slot exemptions as possible was the way the airlines would use them. Most of the slots the major airlines applied for are routes they already serve. By using an AIR21 slot exemption for a close copy of a regional flight they offer now, the airlines will be able to schedule new flights using the slots they vacated. The new flights will not be regional aircraft, but will instead bring more large jet flights for high revenue routes.
In conclusion, let me say, Mr. Chairman, the FAA lottery is an appropriate way, in my judgment, now and then we can have a long-range solutionbut it is an appropriate way to avoid complete gridlock at LaGuardia and allow for limited regional flights to underserved markets.
The airlines showed, in this instance, that they do not deserve unfettered decision-making authority in scheduled flights. In the face of clear signs that LaGuardia cannot handle hundreds of new flights, the airlines decided to put their interests ahead of passengers and the community.
We cannot stand by, and I look forward to working with the chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. And the full statements of all members and witnesses will be placed in the record.
We believe that Mr. Weiner was next.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF HON. ANTHONY D. WEINER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mr. WEINER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify. I have enormous respect for this committee and you, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Lipinski, and it is that respect that led in large measure to my supporting AIR21.
I think as the committee looks at this issue, there have to be three fundamental questions asked and answered. First was the FAA within its statutory authority when it implemented the lottery system. Clearly the answer to that is yes.
Referring to subsection 41715 of the committee print of the bill, it is clear that it was contemplated, that this type of limit was contemplated. It states clearly, as affecting the FAA's administration, the authority for safety and movement of air traffic; nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting that authority. And you will note where that language was inserted was right after the phaseout of slots. And so it was clear that the committee can see that there might be possibilities that the phaseout of slots may lead to necessary actions by the FAA.
Also, in answering that question, you have to ask, if not the FAA, who? Who is it that is going to be making these decisions? Is it the airlines that will be making decisions about whether an airport is too crowded, or is it going to be the local airport authority? I happen to believe that we should give the local airport authority more authority to put limits, but the airlines have contested that role as well.
The second question: Is the lottery an unreasonable solution? Is it an unfair solution? There were 159 slots allocated. That number was not plucked out of the air. That is the number that the FAA says is the absolute limit, if you insert them into the present scheme, that is still safe. It is the number of safe flights that can be inserted.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I think it is also clear that this lottery system was nondiscriminatory. It was a lottery in the classic sense of the word.
The third and toughest question that the committee has to ask and answer is, does the FAA's action undermine the deregulatory intent of AIR21; and I think the answer to this question is the clearest. Even an act of Congress cannot obviate the laws of physics. There are only so many flights that can land on a piece of tarmac. There are only so many gates at LaGuardia Airport and so much air space in the Nation's skies, and pure deregulation assumes an unregulated supply of all of those things. Sooner or later an agency of government is going to have to regulate the rules of road.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, and I am not going to use all of my time, I would ask the committee to think seriously about what would happen if Congress steps in and rules that the FAA's actions were erroneous. Where does that leave us? That leaves us in an environment where no one knows who has the authority to say when enough is enough. Frankly, it would be chaos. We would have a situation where we would be relying on the airlines themselves to tell folks at LaGuardia Airport or any airport that we will decide when it is safe or when it is convenient for us to come in. That type of chaos was never contemplated in AIR21.
I think this committee and this Congress made some important steps in trying to encourage air traffic to smaller nonhub airports. We should not let that good work be a subterfuge for essentially saying we are no longer going to have anyone controlling the safety of our Nation's skies.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF HON. STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW JERSEY
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for holding this hearing and allowing me to participate. I am from New Jersey, not New York, and the Ninth Congressional District, which includes Teterboro Airport, one of the busiest airports in the United States.
I would like you to take my testimony, if you would, number one, as a voice of support for the FAA and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, acting to limit the flights at LaGuardia by conducting a lottery of the flight slots, both because the people of my district constitute air travelers and also because we are under the flight path of not only LaGuardia but other airports as well.
Beyond that, what you do today, the principles that you acknowledge today, will have an effect on our aspirations for Teterboro Airport. What I see this as, fundamentally, this hearing and your role, is as an acknowledgment of limits. I would ask you to think, when you think about my testimony, of the fire marshal in a theater. There is a very popular show; everybody wants to go. There would be an unlimited number of people who will be willing to stand in the aisle, stand on one another.
But the fire marshal says, no, it will be unsafe if we let everyone come into the 8 p.m. show. We have to draw a limit.
Candy vendors would love it and the surrounding restaurants would love it if we let everybody in because they would do more business. Commerce would increase. People from across the States could come. Interstate commerce could be upheld, and people could come and see this wonderful show if we allowed people to stand in the aisles. The fire marshal says, I understand all of those valuable interests, but it is my job to make sure that this theater is run safely. And frankly that is your job, to make sure that our airports are run safely.
And so you have to draw limits. Who draws the limits, and did the FAA or Port Authority exceed their authority. I think they have that authority, and I think that they have exercised it prudently.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We in Teterboro, we want to get rid of Stage 1 and Stage 2 aircraft, while they only constitute 15 percent of the flights in and out of our airport, these Stage 1 and Stage 2 aircraft under 75,000 pounds, they constitute over 90 percent of the noise violations. We think that we ought to be able to get a ban of those aircraft in Teterboro. We are also seeking for some type of a nighttime curfew as an acknowledgment that the theater is full, and that to allow more and more people to come in, even though we would love them to see the show, that night when they want just can't be safe. It is not fair to anybody and might be dangerous to everybody and a violation of our duty as the fire marshal.
Thank you for allowing me to testify.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Rothman.
TESTIMONY OF HON. GARY L. ACKERMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mr. ACKERMAN. Thank you very much, Chairman Duncan. Mr. Lipinski, thank you for the great work that you have done. And all of us appreciate the great work of Jerry Nadler, the only downstate New Yorker who does. He carries a large load. We also have our good friend from upstate as well.
Mr. Chairman, before you you see a whole group of people who, as you well know, cooperated and worked with this full committee and subcommittee for AIR21 because it seeks to accomplish things in which we believe, to bring some economic sense to having flights being able to go to and from places such as Mrs. Slaughter's district in Rochester, New York, and to bring some competitiveness to the system.
And we are glad that she and her district had a good experience with JetBlue. Let me point out, though, that JetBlue does not fly into or out of LaGuardia Airport; it flies into Kennedy Airport, a 20-minute car drive away.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Let me also tell you that if JetBlue was flying from LaGuardia to Syracuse, New York, her experience would not be so happy. Her constituents would be better served taking the stagecoach.
You could put all of LaGuardia's two runways into the new hangar that was built at JFK; that is how small the airport which is the subject of today's hearing is. It is a tiny airport that is overcrowded, overbooked, above capacity. It is in a place right now which will bring a tragedy to the entire vicinity and to the airline industry. LaGuardia Airport is a place looking for victims some time in the near future.
Be assured that we are not here to complain that there is noise in the community and pollution. It is true. Certainly the people who live near and around the airport never expected to have someone say, you are now going to have 600 more flights per day. That they didn't expect. But it is not a matter of that.
This is a matter of safety. It is about the lives of so many thousands of Americans flying in and out of that airport every day.
We are so happy and so proud that you all want to come and visit us in New York and come to our airport in Queens County. If we were running a restaurant, we all would know that we want to get as much business in as we can, but we also know that you can't come for an 8:00 reservation, unless we decide, as some have suggested, let's speed up the service and have everybody running in and out of the restaurant, each seating will be for 3 minutes or 30 seconds. Think about that.
Two runways. Most airports have parallel runways, many runways; this airport does not. O'Hare has six runways, San Francisco has four, and we have two. And they are not parallel; they cross each other. They cross each other at an airport surrounded on three sides by water. Every 30 seconds this plane is taking off and that plane is landing. Maybe the wind shifts and this plane has to land. Every 30 seconds before too long, that is what is going to happen. You just can't accommodate it.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The air traffic controllers are doing a spectacular job, but there is pressure to close the distance of 2 miles between the planes. They will tell you, you can't have more than 35 planes landing or taking off on a runway in an hour. That is all over the country. They are doing more than that now. When the plane lands, you can't find a gate. There are only 71 gates at the airport. Where are these planes going to go. You can't put them in the parking lot; there is not enough parking for the cars. When they start putting more planes, they are going to crowd the skies waiting to crash into each other or land at the airport.
I was in Florida last week. I had a 3-hour-and5-minute flight to get back to New York. I waited 61/2 hours on the ground. I could have recounted the entire county while I was waiting for the plane to take off. But no, we sat at the airport, delay after delay, because of the congestion over the airspace in New York. It is unheard of.
And we can have a couple of laughs over it, and I guess we will until that moment when a tragedy happens, and it is bound to happen. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. It is impossible. We can't park the planes on the ground. There is no ground space left on the ground in the airport.
You want to talk about building out into the water. We can talk about that. The last time it took I don't know how many years, and the Continental flight went off the runway and landed in the bay before a $50 million extension of 15 feet was able to be added. We can take a look at that, but by the time that happens there is going to be vertical takeoff and landing planes.
In the interest of good common sense and the lives of the thousands of Americans who want to get to where they are going, let us have some semblance of order in the system; and the lottery, I believe as does almost anybody who flies into this airport, must prevail.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Ackerman.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Committee counsel told me that your crash will be on the national news tonight. Let me say that this subcommittee has always prided itself on putting safety first, but we also have national interests that we have to consider as well.
But you can see that there is a lot of interest in this subject. We have had several requests that this hearing be held, and we certainly appreciate your participation and your strong feelings and interest, and you all are now excused. You are welcome to stay in the audience if you wish to listen.
I am going to yield my time for an opening statement to my good friend from New York, Mr. Quinn, who obviously has a strong interest in this subject as well.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Without objection, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask that my full statement be entered.
Mr. DUNCAN. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you. While our witnesses are coming to the table, I would like to thank members who just finished their testimony. We appreciate the input from all members, particularly those who have concerns about safety, not only our constituents who may live in the state; but sooner or later all travel to LaGuardia Airport, and we deeply appreciate their comments.
Mr. Chairman, I wanted to thank you and Mr. Lipinski for the hearing today and thank you for your trip to Buffalo, New York, last year when we discussed, as Ms. Slaughter mentioned in her remarks, the competition problem that we have in our part of the State with extremely high airline fares.
I will introduce Mr. Larry Meckler from the NFTA, our transportation authority in western New York, who will clearly point out for the audience and for the members here the problem we have with changing some of the good work we have done in midstream.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I want to echo the comments Ms. Slaughter made, and I am certain it is in Meckler's testimony today, some of those success stories. And it wasn't easy work, as the County Executive will no doubt talk about, in Rochester and Monroe County; that is, the chance for us to do the right thing.
Mr. Chairman, we stand ready to work with you to keep safety as a primary concern for all of the traveling public, without a doubt, but at the same time we can't afford to undo some of the good things that have begun when it comes to prices for air travel for our consumers. We have living proofand we will share those numbers with youthat it is working and can work. We need to work with the FAA to find a way to do both things at the same time. I am certain that the subcommittee will have a chance to do that.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Quinn.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today on the FAA slot lottery at New York's LaGuardia Airport.
As you know, when we are working on AIR21 legislation, I was an advocate for lifting the High Density Rule at LaGuardia Airport and Kennedy Airport and Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The High Density Rule imposed in 1968 as a temporary measure to relieve congestion has outlived its purpose and operates as a restraint, limiting the access of competitive carriers in small and midsized communities to these airports. Despite the unique situation at LaGuardia, I believe we did the right thing by phasing out this artificial barrier to entry, and treating these high density airports like every other airport in the Nation.
Unfortunately, LaGuardia Airport has been overwhelmed with new AIR21 flights, mainly flights by the major carriers' commuter affiliates to small and midsized communities, but also some increased flights by new entrants and limited incumbent carriers. Delays and cancellations skyrocketed to record levels at the already delay-plagued airport, resulting in the situation we find ourselves in today, where the FAA is limiting operations at the airport through a slot lottery.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The FAA, as well as the New York & New Jersey Port Authority claimed that the slot lottery is just a temporary solution to the unique problem at LaGuardia. They claim that they will develop a permanent, long-term solution by September 2001. That is less than a year's time.
Given the history of the High Density Rule which was again a temporary solution that lasted more than 30 years before Congress intervened, I am pessimistic that this is just a temporary solution. I am especially pessimistic because easy solutions to the complex problems of delays and congestion simply do not exist. Congress, the FAA, airlines, airports, we all have been struggling with the problem of delays throughout the country and a permanent solution still evades us.
The FAA and Port Authority are working together to develop a long-term demand management approach to relieve the congestion at the airport. However, for more than three decades LaGuardia has operated under a demand management approach known as the High Density Rule. Yet even before AIR21 LaGuardia was still one of the most delay-impacted airports in the Nation. Demand management under the High Density Rule did not reduce congestion and instead reduced access to the airport keeping air fares high and service to small communities down.
Limiting demand without discriminating against certain carriers or communities is the same challenge facing the FAA and the Port Authority today. It is not an easy task. That is why I am concerned that the lotterythat the slot lottery is in reality how demand will be managed now and long into the future.
Again, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today. I look forward to hearing from all of the knowledgeable witnesses. Hopefully, someone testifying here today can convince me that a viable long-term solution is on the horizon and this slot lottery is just a temporary solution for the unique problem at LaGuardia and not a dangerous precedent for congested airports across this Nation.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and before I yield back the balance of my time, I ask unanimous consent that Mr. Nadler be allowed to participate in today's hearing since he is not a member of this subcommittee, but is a member of the full committee.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Lipinski. And Mr. Nadler is granted permission to participate.
Mr. BASS. No statement.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I concur with Mr. Lipinski; your decision to hold this hearing is a good one. It is an appropriate time to air this subject that has caused such consternation in the aviation community, but I share Mr. Lipinski's skepticism that this lottery approach will be an interim solution.
But it is important that the FAA state that this is a temporary approach and not a permanent solution so that when the time comes toif the question is raised of making this permanent, we can hold that up to the public and to the FAA.
It is unrealistic to think that there is some universally acceptable solution and one that can be readily implemented. LaGuardia has two 7,000-foot intersecting runways, which limits any ability to accept increased capacity under diverse weather conditions. Just accept the reality. You don't have to go very far, just to cross the State line over to Newark which has two long runways, but separated by 900 feet. They can't accept the traffic under worst weather conditions when they are quickly down to one runway. They are also a delay-impacted airport.
So, further, LaGuardia does not have the luxury that other hub airports have of having a dominant carrier which can make unilateral decisions with limited competitive impact to adjust their operations in order to ease delays. At LaGuardia there are numerous competitors. They are all scrapping for the prime hours, the morning and the midday and evening.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Given the conditions, the FAA had little choice. First of all, remember that the FAA is limiting the exemption slots, not the permanent or any previous slots before AIR21. The other side of the equation is to ensure that this limitation does result in improved service and increased competition and has the beneficial effect on pricing that we anticipated it having when we removed the slot rule.
A third consideration is, remember that in my discussion with the manager of New York TRACON a couple of years ago about this and other problems, his comment to me was that we will never compromise safety. Take the slot rule out altogether. That doesn't affect our decisions. Our decisions are driven by clearances based on their safety impact. It is not slots that compromise safety, it is the pressure on air traffic controllers and the air traffic control system to speed it up in the face of inclement weather and inadequate capacity on the ground, inadequate numbers of gates and inadequate ability to accommodate aircraft. Forget all that, speed up the system.
To their credit, air traffic controllers won't do that. But their decisions then impact the rest of the Nation; 24 percent of all delays are attributable to delays at LaGuardia in our whole domestic system.
Controllers are the safety conscience in aviation. They are not going to compromise the system. So the question is then, can airlines and the New York & New Jersey Port Authority and the FAA and the airport neighbors come to an understanding unless disruptive measures such as air capacityairport capacity improvements, encouraging airlines to spread their schedules throughout the day and evening into less-used time slots? Can some operations be shifted to the times of day at JFK when there is adequate capacity, and should we give, legislatively, antitrust immunity authority to the FAA and the airlines to negotiate agreements to achieve capacity by spreading flights during the day so that you remove the competitive pressures to squeeze more flights into less time?
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Let's hope that out of this hearing today, Mr. Chairman, will come some answers to those questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Oberstar.
In the 6 years that I have had the privilege to chair this subcommittee, we have held over 200 hearings during that time, and I have generally given my opening statement first; but today I wanted to give the Members from New York and the most affected Members a chance to speak first. And since then our ranking member, Mr. Oberstar, whom we continually refer to as ''Mr. Aviation'' because he is the most expert person in this field, I think, in the Congress, and Mr. Lipinski have summed up this situation very well and have expressed many of my views.
I will say, during these 6 years we have passed many major pieces of legislation, but most of us are most proud of AIR21 because I think when AIR21 fully takes effect, it will do more for aviation in general than any legislation in the history of the Congress.
I have said many times that without any question AIR21 probably did more for the airports in our medium-size and smaller cities than any legislation in the history of the Congress. The situation at LaGuardia is important not only for the people of New York, but also for air travelers throughout the Nation, and as I mentioned a few minutes ago, we have to take that into consideration as well.
I am pleased that we were able to hold this hearing because we had quite a few requests from Members to look into this situation. As Mr. Oberstar said and Mr. Lipinski said, I am hopeful that we can come up with a solution that is fair to everyone before we finish dealing with this, possiblyor probablyin the next Congress.
I was disappointed because one of the most important things that we did in AIR21, most of us thought, was to open up the slots in New York and Chicago which had been a goal for many years of most people on this subcommittee and in the Congress; and I was disappointed therefore to learn that the FAA had felt it necessary to cancel some of the flights that are now being offered.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I do recognize that LaGuardia is seriously congested and that delays have increased dramatically there in the past couple of months, and I do know that something needs to be done to alleviate that situation. But I am also well aware of how important access to LaGuardia is for the many smaller and medium-size and even larger cities throughout this Nation. New York is a hub for business activity, as Mrs. Slaughter mentioned, and LaGuardia is the most desirable airport there. Many communities need flights to New York and need flights to LaGuardia to strengthen their economic activity and their vitality and growth.
I think that all of us are concerned that the FAA chose to eliminate only flights that were mandated by AIR21. Slots held by the big airlines and flights to some of the big cities are not affected. New airlines and smaller communities, even medium-sized cities are the big losers so far.
Also, I think that sometimes the FAA has taken in the pasthas taken years to move on important matters, but there was awfully fast action here, and I think that perhaps some alternatives were not given the consideration that they should have been given.
For example, there are now six slots per hour reserved for general aviation aircraft; that is 90 slots a day. I think anyone will tell you that I have been one of the strongest supporters of general aviation in this Congress, but it could be that corporate jets really need to consider other possibilities because they really have more alternatives than the scheduled commercial airliners.
There are other things that I think possibly should have been considered. The Port Authority has been collecting a $3 PFC since 1992 from LaGuardia. Many of these passengers paying a PFC were not New Yorkers, but people traveling to New York from all over the country and from many of these smaller and medium-sized cities around the country. LaGuardia will collect almost a half a billion dollars in PFCs, but none will go to improve the airport at LaGuardia; rather it will go to road and rail projects at Newark and JFK.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 There have been other things that have been done that we may need to look more closely at. We may need to look at this lottery. As Mr. Oberstar and Mr. Lipinski pointed out, we had a temporary solution in 1968 that lasted all of these years, and we want to make sure that we look at all of the alternatives possible and do the fairest thing for not only the people of New York but for people all over this Nation and make sure that we do come up with the very best solution possible for this problem before we take final action in this regard. I don't think that we should make a temporary lottery become a 30- or 40-year solution without looking at it further.
We will proceed now with.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Let me interrupt for just a moment.
This may be the last hearing of this subcommitteegiven the uncertainties of this Congress, I say ''may.'' if it is, I would like to pay my greatmy tribute to you for your leadership of the Aviation Subcommittee, for your judicious conduct of the business, the legislative business of aviation. Your service has left an indelible mark on domestic and international aviation for the better. We will sorely miss your leadership in the 107th Congress, but I know that we can count on your continuing presence and contribution.
It has been a pleasure to serve with you in your high-minded pursuit of the best service of aviation. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Oberstar. I have said both publicly and privately that I don't know how I could have worked with a better chairman than Chairman Shuster or a better ranking member than you, Mr. Oberstar, or a better ranking member of this subcommittee than Mr. Lipinski. And I think if all of theI don't know of another subcommittee in this entire Congress where the leadership of the subcommittee has gotten along as well, and particularly on a bipartisan, nonpartisan basis, than we have in this subcommittee. It has been a pleasure and honor to serve as a chairman of that type of subcommittee with the type of people that help lead this subcommittee such as you, Mr. Oberstar and Mr. Lipinski.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I do need to go, I will go next to Mr. Boswell, since he is a member of the subcommittee, and then back to Mr. Nadler.
Mr. BOSWELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me add my appreciation as a relatively newcomer to the subcommittee. For the last 4 years you have treated me well, and I appreciate it. I look forward to working with you and Mr. Lipinski equally as well. I feel I was taken in, and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this.
As I listen to my colleagues, I hope that we will hear these other panels today talk to us. I took some interest in what you said, Mr. Chairman, about the PFCs and so on and how we have struggled in my part of the countryand you, for your part. We have come of the same challenges to get access to National and Chicago and New York, and so some of us across the country want my colleagues to know that I have appreciated picking up a couple of slots to get into New York at LaGuardia. We come with mixed emotions.
I have sat on the tarmac a few hours myself, waiting to get to the next destination and missed meetings and getting all screwed up. And so I will be interested also, if I don't get to hear it, to read and see what is suggested by the FAA to alleviate some of this. You know, times have moved on, and there is no point in me or anybody else repeating how much we have grown and become dependent on aviation to conduct business.
Also the great City of New York, it is an attraction for many of us across the country to come and take part in the plays and tourism.
I appreciate your holding this hearing. I think, from you ought to come some solutions, and I have the confidence that they will. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JERROLD NADLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2
Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I wanted to thank you for holding this hearing today, and also for the indulgence to let me participate as a member of the subcommittee.
This issue of the lottery, the slot lottery at LaGuardia is particularly important to me, given that I represent parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and LaGuardia is an integral part of the New York City transportation infrastructure.
At issue is the question of whether or not the Federal Aviation Administration violated congressional intent to award new flights under AIR21 by limiting the number of slot exemptions and allocating them through a lottery system. One of the goals of AIR21 was to increase access and competition at LaGuardia for regional carriers by exempting them from the high density ruling instituted back in 1968. However, AIR21 also recognizes the authority of the FAA to regulate flights with reference to safety and the movement of air traffic. Increasing service to underserved markets such as upstate New York as well as other cities is an important goal and we must be mindful of the need to promote fairness in the city and for consumers. But the safe operation of aircraft must remain our number one concern when we consider any aviation policy.
The unique situation at LaGuardia poses several challenges for safely implementing AIR21. Located on only 660 acres of land and, as we have heard, with only two runways, intersecting runways, the airport has had a very limited capacity and almost no room to expand. Given that LaGuardia is closer to Manhattan than the region's other major airports at Kennedy and Newark, demand remains high for LaGuardia despite severe congestion and delays. Since the enactment of AIR21 airlines have requested clearance for over 600 new daily flights at LaGuardia. With only about half of these flights currently in operation, delays have increased dramatically and caused an increase in airport operations well beyond the level recommended by the FAA for even the best weather conditions.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Currently LaGuardia counts for one quarter of all the schedule delays in the entire country. These delays of course lead to system delays spreading out across the entire air travel network. A significant increase in flight operations at LaGuardia would severely affect the flow of air traffic nationwide. If all requested AIR21 flights were awarded, the airport would have to operate at a ridiculously unmanageable and clearly unsafe level. And we don't need Congressman Ackerman's exhibition of models of two high performance military aircraft crashing to know the calamitous results of two pedestrian airliners crashing into each other. We have had close calls at LaGuardia, too many in recent years, and we will have more and we will have the real thing if the congestion isn't abated.
Attention must be paid to protect the safety of air travelers and to those who work within the industry. We cannot afford to wait for the kinks in the system to work themselves out when the safety of the traveling public is at risk. Was it the intent of Congress to increase access and enhance competition at LaGuardia? Yes. Was it the intent of Congress to increase daily operations beyond the level deemed reasonable and safe by the FAA? I doubt it. Those responsible for the passage of AIR21 could not have predicted, I dare say they did not predict that the airlines would request clearance for a ridiculous additional 600 daily flights at LaGuardia.
The slot lottery as administered by the FAA represents in my opinion a reasonable approach that attempts to balance the need to improve access for new carriers and underserved markets and the need to operate the airport in a safe and efficient manner. The slot lottery is only a temporary measure but a necessary one to implement AIR21 in a way that takes into account the very definite physical limitations of LaGuardia while maintaining a primary concern for safety.
I have heard very clearly Mr. Lipinski's concern that temporary restrictions have a way of becoming very long-term or permanent restrictions and that has certainly been true in the past. But I submit that this restriction is absolutely necessary for safety and must remain in force until we come up with something better as a permanent solution. We should not eliminate these restrictions, these relatively mild restrictions, now in the hope that we will come up with some permanent solution after the next air catastrophe or air crash at LaGuardia.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding these hearings so we can more closely examine the challenges facing us at LaGuardia. I look forward to working with all interested parties to address these issues in the future. I would be remiss if I did not extend a special welcome to the distinguished borough president of the borough of Queens, Claire Shulman, and I thank you and I yield back.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Nadler.
We are fortunate to have a very distinguished panel of witnesses here today. We have Mr. Arthur Seymour, who is Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, a longtime friend of mine and one of most respected lawyers in the entire State of Tennessee. We have Mr. Lawrence Meckler, who is Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority; Mr. Jack Doyle, who is County Executive of the County of Monroe in New York State; Mr. John J. Hamilton, Director of Aviation for the Burlington International Airport; Ms. Claire Shulman, who is the Queens Borough President; and finally Mr. Edward P. Faberman, who has been with us several times before, who is the Executive Director of the Air Carrier Association of America.
We will proceed in the order the witnesses are listed in the call of the hearing. That means, Mr. Seymour, we will begin with you. Thank you very much for taking time out from your busy schedules to be with us today. Mr. Seymour.
TESTIMONY OF ARTHUR G. SEYMOUR, JR., CHAIRMAN, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, METROPOLITAN KNOXVILLE AIRPORT AUTHORITY, ACCOMPANIED BY DAVID CONKLIN, METROPOLITAN KNOXVILLE AIRPORT AUTHORITY; LAWRENCE M. MECKLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NIAGARA FRONTIER TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY; JACK DOYLE, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, COUNTY OF MONROE, NEW YORK; JOHN J. HAMILTON, DIRECTOR OF AVIATION, BURLINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT; CLAIRE SHULMAN, QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT, NEW YORK, NY; AND EDWARD P. FABERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AIR CARRIER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
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Mr. SEYMOUR. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, I want to thank you for two things: First for the opportunity to appear and speak today in opposition to the elimination of the current slots at LaGuardia Airport in New York, and secondly to thank you this subcommittee and the Congress for all you all have done for the airports in this country with the passage of AIR21 this year.
Knoxville was one of the beneficiaries in many ways from AIR21. When Delta Airlines and its subsidiary ASA put in service from Knoxville to LaGuardia effective November 1, 2000, AIR21 with its provisions for access to slot control airports, in particular LaGuardia, seems to have pinpointed Knoxville as eligible for this service in three ways. We are classified under AIR21 as a small hub airport. There was no Delta or ASA service from Knoxville to LaGuardia effective November 1, 1999, and the service is now provided by stage 3 regional jets.
Delta put the service in, as I mentioned, on November 1, 2000 with three flights a day with no advance publicity for the service. Yet in the almost five weeks it has been in effect loads have increased weekly and are continuing to increase based on advance bookings. If the lottery results in the elimination of these slots, we are one of the cities likely to lose service to LaGuardia, as reported in the Wall Street Journal on November 30, 2000. We will lose this service although we are the 63rd highest market for LaGuardia and we would be the largest LaGuardia destination within 1500 miles without other nonstop service available, because right now Delta and ASA are the only ones that provide this service directly from Knoxville to LaGuardia.
As set forth in our written comments which we have filed with the subcommittee, New York service and especially service to LaGuardia is vital to the development of Knoxville, our region and east Tennessee. The Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership and our Convention and Visitors Bureau have statements in our comments which set forth just a few of the reasons that support this statement.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 New York is still the financial capital of this country, fashion capital and the cultural and entertainment capital of this country. Cities like Knoxville need access to nonstop service to New York. But with all due deference to the comments that have been made earlier by Members from New York, New York needs access to Knoxville. If New York is to retain its preeminence in the areas of finance, culture, and entertainment, it needs direct service, air service to cities like Knoxville and other cities throughout this great Nation.
Our statistics already show that 42 percent of the Knoxville-LaGuardia service originates in Knoxville; that is, 42 percent of passengers using this service are coming from New York to Knoxville, 58 percent from Knoxville to New York.
In conclusion, we urge this subcommittee to do everything in its power to prevent the temporary reallocation process at LaGuardia. We are worried, like other members of this subcommittee, that although the bill is temporary, it will be permanent as the rules in 1968 took 32 years to eliminate.
And to prevent the erosion of any of the provisions of AIR21 which are benefitting and will benefit the airports of this country greatly, AIR21 was a result of many years of work by members of this committee, subcommittee, this Congress, it enjoyed wide bipartisan support, it was supported by the airports throughout the country. And if you start chipping away at itthis is just a small part of it, but if you start chipping away at it by eliminating this rule, somebody else will say I don't like this part of the bill, too, and we need to do something before that. And suddenly we are without AIR21 and all the benefits that it has brought to airports. It was a compromise measure, as I assume most of the measures you all pass in this Congress is. But you had everybody on board supporting it, and we urge you to keep AIR21 in place as it was implemented.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Seymour. I want to also welcome another longtime friend who is accompanying Mr. Seymour, Mr. David Conklin, who is the Marketing Director of the Knoxville Airport and who does a really outstanding job there at the Knoxville Airport, who is here with us today also.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our next witness will be Mr. Lawrence Meckler, the Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Mr. Meckler.
Mr. MECKLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Niagara Transportation Authority, NFTA, operates the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which serves the Buffalo Niagara region. The NFTA also operates Niagara Falls Airport and the bus and rail systems for western New York, and we are vital to the economic fabric of that community. I want to thank you today for the opportunity to provide testimony before the subcommittee and how I believe and our community believes that the Buffalo Niagara International airport will be affected by the potential loss of flights at our airport as a result of the proposed slot lottery.
In November of 1997, the NFTA opened a new airport terminal. At that time we had the second highest air fares in the country. We had six airlines with 90 flights and 15 gates. Three years later as a result of our air service development program and the support of the State and Federal Government and AIR21, we are now the 43rd most expensive city. We have 12 airlines instead of six. We have 2.1 million enplanements instead of 1.5 and we have 140 flights instead of 90. We added six airlines. We have added low cost carriers, Southwest, JetBlue, Vanguard, Shuttle America. We also added Midway Airlines. The recent slot exemption at LaGuardia has provided enhanced LaGuardia air service.
In the last 6 months Buffalo has added eight regional jets, four from each by Continental and Delta. LaGuardia is the number one destination from Buffalo and until 6 months ago it was served by one air carrier, our number one destination one air carrier. Essentially, we are being held hostage by one carrier to our number one destination.
The City of Buffalo, the area of Western New York, cannot take a step backward on air service development. It is just too important to the region. Almost everything that Mr. Seymour said with respect to Knoxville applies to Buffalo except Buffalo needs New York. Buffalo desperately needs New York and Buffalo desperately needs LaGuardia. We cannot be held hostage again. The level of LaGuardia service is significant for marketing our region to the world and to achieve the type of economic stimulus our local leaders are trying to obtain. Our success in providing competition is crucial to our region. I know I keep saying it over and over again, but that is the message I want you to hear from western New York.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We recognize the safety issues that were demonstrated just a few feet from me. But our position is simple: We cannot afford to lose flights to our number one destination. Buffalo should be exempt from the slot lottery. When professional sports teams have their annual drafts the teams most in need receive preferential picks. Buffalo is a city in need. The law addressed that need. The lottery could reverse that action. It is that simple.
Each jurisdiction has their own circumstance. Buffalo has a circumstance where we can't lose those eight flights, and we can't be in a position that we can lose those flights.
I would like to thank you for your time. I think the issues are clear, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that Buffalo continues to offer competitive air transportation.
I would like to say also that Congressman Quinn was very generous in terms of discussing our successes, but it should be pointed out a lot of that success was due to him. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Meckler. Mr. Quinn has been an outstanding member of this subcommittee, and you should know that.
We next have Mr. Jack Doyle, who is the County Executive for Monroe County, New York.
Mr. DOYLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for letting local government appear before your committee. I am the chief elected official in the community. I hear mostly from our people in the community who are very unhappy about their air service and about high air fares. So I am really going to address my issues to those. Mrs. Slaughter represents our area, and we appreciate her continuing concern.
We are just down the street from Buffalo, New York; however, we are the number 4we rank number 4 in terms of high air fares. We are still there and we just bumped up from number 3. So we are real happy about that. And there is a reason for that, and that is competition that we got out of JetBlue Airlines.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 It wasn't too long agoby the way, our airport has about 2.5 million enplanements about a year in a community of about 1.5 million in the greater Rochester area. It wasn't too long ago that Secretary Slater had a hearing in Rochester about high air fares. It was a major concern to us as it was to many others. We were told at that time by one of the senior executives from one of the major six carriers that we really shouldn't be complaining about high air fares because those revenues that they generate allow them to fly to, amongst other places, Beijing and Singapore in the Asian Rim. Because of that we really shouldn't be complaining because that is a service that we couldn't otherwise avail to our business travelers.
Well, I have to tell you that our number one destination in Buffalo is New York City and LaGuardia. 10 percent of our total enplanements go to LaGuardia. So this is an important airport for us. In addition, and ironically, five of the O&D markets with cities that we travel to have slot regulations. We have Chicago, which is our number five, Washington Reagan our number four, and New York City LaGuardia is our number one. And what we have experienced here is again without competition the fares have been absolutely outrageous.
Now, since we had increased competition with JetBlue, our fares with our main line carriers have dropped by 50 percent to New York City. JetBlue has had a significant influence. However, unlike Buffalo, we have no other low fare carriers in our area and we don't see any way that the lottery system that the FAA has come up with is going to result in any additional low fare carriers even giving us a look-see. We have been to all of the air lines on a continuing basis with our airport director and my deputy director behind me. We have knocked on their doors, we have been to Phoenix and Dallas and every other place that we can find a low fare carrier, including AirTran in Florida, and we have not really been able to generate the kind of competition we need.
So what we are faced with is a concern about lack of service because 45 percent of our carrier strength is with US Airways and it goes to New York City. But because of constraints with respect to competition, we are not really seeing the kind of competition we would like to see. We are really concerned about the lottery. All of us know that a lottery system has some winners and a lot of losers. And all of us who walk around with lottery tickets in our pocket know that. And we are very concerned that this lottery is not going to result in anything like a winner for us. And it isn't just an issue about our community in terms of demanding access to New York City. Our businesses are small and medium size businesses in our community and really are 65, 70 percent of our air traffic. And they have told me in no uncertain terms that unless we get relief we are not going to have the economy that we have today because they will not be able to build and expand in our community and they are going to leave. They have told me that as a chief elected official. That is why I am down here to impart this message. We need competition and we need quality air service, and LaGuardia is number one in our target list. We like JFK and we like JetBlue but it isn't servicing our businesses as we need. Thank you very much.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Doyle, for some very fine testimony. And next we will hear from Mr. John J. Hamilton, who is Director of Aviation of the Burlington International Airport.
Mr. HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for inviting me to testify today on the importance of AIR21 to small regional airports like Burlington and to areas that they serve. I am grateful for your efforts to open major hubs to underserved markets. And I am here today to testify that those efforts have been successful.
And of course it is now my understanding that those changes are subject to further revisions due to lottery. What I hope to convey to you this afternoon is that for small regional airports like Burlington International, AIR21 has meant much more than just convenient air service. For Vermont the AIR21 provisions have fostered competition, resulting in more reasonable fares and growth in the economy of the region. It has been a breath of life, and I thank you for that.
For Vermont this is not simply a transportation issue. It is an economic issue that directly affects the region's growth and development, and I suspect that the same is true for many of my colleagues testifying here today.
Burlington is at the outer reaches of northern New England and like so many other regional airports it is heavily reliant on quality air service. In many respects Burlington International Airport operates as if on an island. There are no competing airports within a hundred miles and if the flights are not available or affordable customers will decide to either drive or not travel at all.
Burlington residents have a higher propensity for travel than many other cities of similar size, with an average of 3.3 trips per capita in utilization of air service. We serve an average of 860,000 passengers each year, making us one of the most traveled airports in New England. And those passengers depend on these flights not only to facilitate commerce but also for airline connections beyond the region.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Burlington is a vibrant community characterized by population based growth, high medium income levels, a strong business community, solid economic growth, and four-season tourism. The state boasts a sophisticated business landscape with companies such as IBM, IDX and Husky choosing to do business in Vermont. Over 4 million people visit Vermont on average each year, contributing over $4 billion to the State's economy. But it is not easy to get in and out of Burlington. Rail service is limited and drive times to major cities can be prohibitive, particularly for business travelers. The only convenient way to travel in and out of Vermont is to fly. Both business and leisure travelers rely on air service between Vermont and the major metropolitan areas.
As you know, regional airports are at the mercy of the hub system and they are serviced primarily by computer express flights. Prior to AIR21 Burlington International offered turboprop service to LaGuardia on US Airways Express. 222 seats daily were offered on turboprops and it was not uncommon for a midweek round-trip ticket to exceed $800, or a per mile cost of $3.55. There were no other options for the consumer traveling to the LaGuardia market and no incentives for airlines to offer competitive fares. Both business and leisure travelers were at a severe disadvantage, particularly considering that New York is Burlington's number one O&D market.
In the past 8 months since AIR21 became effective we have upgraded service to LaGuardia from turboprops to regional jets. We have introduced competition resulting in lower fares and we have enhanced options for the consumer. We now offer up to 322 seats to LaGuardia daily and air fares are now as low as $100 round trip midweek. The airport has also recently completed a major facility improvement project that includes a new ramp and concourse, which was made possible in part by the PFC. This new ramp and concourse were designed to enhance capacity with the express purpose of fostering competition and making Burlington International Airport available to regional jets.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We have aggressively taken actions to take full advantage of the benefits of AIR21 and are just beginning to see the fruits of our labor. However, with yesterday's lottery we only expect that some of our recent gains may have been erased and future gains do not look promising. Your intent was to open slots for new starts and for underserved markets. Unfortunately for Burlington, this lottery has favored the former at the expense of the latter. I have not been able to determine the full impact of yesterday's lottery, but I can only guess that major destinations have gained additional services through this process while underserved markets now still have the same accessibility problems that you have worked so hard to correct.
Our hope is that this body along with the FAA, the airlines, the Port Authority of New York in New Jersey can affect an alternative solution. I hope that you will take into consideration the effect that the allocation of slot exemptions by lottery have had on small regional airports and will have on small regional airports, specifically Burlington. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. Next we will hear from Ms. Claire Shulman, the Queens Borough President.
Ms. SHULMAN. Good afternoon. I want to thank Chairman Duncan and the members of the Aviation Subcommittee for having us here today. I also want to thank Congressman Joe Crowley, who helped arrange our appearance.
I am the President of the Borough of Queens in the City of New York. I represent not only the Borough's 2 million residents, but both John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airport as well.
You might have heard that we lobbied against that part of AIR21 which loosened the restrictions of the High Density Rule. Also when the bill passed the airlines filed plans with the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate as many as 600 additional flights per day at LaGuardia. I know that is true because they were in my office with the same numbers.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and I sued the U.S. DOT in Federal court for not overseeing the implementation of AIR21 in a responsible way. For example, the U.S. DOT did not require an environmental impact study before allowing hundreds of new flights to be added at New York City airports. The case is still pending.
We realize that our aviation-related noise and pollution problems might appear to some observers to be provincial and of little consequence, given air travel's critical importance to the Nation's economic vitality. Let me assure you, however, that our concerns transcend quality of life issues, and while the airports admittedly have serious adverse impacts on our communities, the benefits to date have been substantial as well. Specifically, the airports provide thousands of jobs and revenue for the entire region.
LaGuardia in particular is probably the most important business travelers' airport in the Nation. However, the implementation of AIR21 to date has increased the frequency and length of flight delays exponentially and continues to pose a threat of gridlock both in the air and on the ground at and around LaGuardia since the passage of AIR21. Airlines have filed exemption requests for more than 600 daily flights at LaGuardia, which would represent a daily increase of more than 50 percent. In September 2000 there were more than 9,000 flight delays at LaGuardia, which constituted more than 25 percent of the flight delays in the entire country. Airlines continue to routinely cancel scheduled flights, especially in afternoon and evening hours, in an effort to avoid even more delays on other flights.
LaGuardia has suffered from congestion and delays since at least the 1960's when the High Density Rule was first instituted. Rolling back the High Density Rule through AIR21 has of course exacerbated these problems. Furthermore, as the problems caused by congestion and delays have worsened, a ripple effect has been experienced at airports across the Nation. Eventually travelers could decide to avoid LaGuardia altogether.
For all of the reasons I have just given, we applaud the Port Authority and the FAA for their efforts to effectuate the spirit of AIR21 in a reasonable way without crippling operations at LaGuardia. In particular, we refer to the slot lottery system which has been proposed as a temporary solution to the problem pending more permanent solutions. It probably is not enough. They are in fact carrying out their mandate to assure an aviation system that runs effectively and safely while at the same time incorporating the spirit of AIR21. We believe that some possible solutions to the problems caused by congestion and delays could include the following: Better use of the metropolitan area's other airports. And this I believe is one of the most important things we could do. Long term to be sure, but it would solve this problem. And that is a one-seat ride from Manhattan to JFK. You could get the businessmen to JFK in 15 minutes, wouldn't be such a competition for LaGuardia, but that one-seat ride is extremely important and should really happen.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Effective and timely redesign of air space. As you know, the FAA is currently studying the long-term prospects of air space redesign. I will probably be dead before that is accomplished.
Updating the technology and improving the operations of the FAA and encouraging other modes of transportation; encouraging the airlines to add flights only to truly underserved areas such as upstate and western New York; and improving suchand providing such service to utilize efficient business plans so that airlines do not schedule too many small flights, too many small markets with only half their seats filled.
Though the concept of letting the market control the number of flights may sound good in theory, at an airport the size and configuration of LaGuardia, where demand of course is overwhelming, there must be some external control. Noise mitigation and the issue of airport curfews should be revisited. Also the government and the airline should proceed expeditiously with the development and implementation of a stage 4 aircraft requirement.
Finally, substantive environmental reviews should be conducted prior to the permanent additions of a substantial number of flights at any of the New York Metropolitan Area airports.
While the above list of suggestions is by no means exhaustive, there are certain proposals which we would vehemently oppose. For example, there is no practical way that LaGuardia can be expanded. If you don't believe us, we invite you to visit Queens. We will take you up to the control tower and show you how the airport is bordered on all sides by residential neighborhoods or water. And a visit would also give a firsthand knowledge of how many aircraft line up 10 and 20 at a time awaiting clearance for takeoffs and then have to navigate one of two runways, which are not only shorter than average but which intersect as well. It is impossible to imagine such a uniquely configured airport could be redesigned or expanded in order to safely and efficiently accommodate an even greater volume of air traffic.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Again, and finally, we enthusiastically support the FAA and the Port Authority in their efforts to maintain the high level of service at LaGuardia. At this time I would also like to ask the airlines to join these agencies in seeking solutions to all the problems that we are discussing today. As always, my office and its resources are available to help in any efforts to save our airports.
Thank you again for allowing me to testify before your committee on these issues of such great importance to so many people.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Ms. Shulman. Our next and final witness on this panel is Mr. Edward P. Faberman, who is the Executive Director for the Air Carrier Association of America. Mr. Faberman.
Mr. FABERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We want to thank you, Congressman Oberstar, Congressman Lipinski, and a very dedicated group of staff people, for pushing hard to increase competition both domestically and internationally. You have made a difference. I also want to thank other members, including Congressman Quinn and Congresswoman Slaughter, for speaking out on the need to enhance airline competition.
Let me just make two quick comments on other statements that have been made. I think it is unfortunate that people have raised the issue of safety. Delays are not safety issues. The air traffic control system will keep aircraft on the ground, unfortunately, for hours and hours and hours to avoid too many aircraft coming into an airport.
I also will comment on the suggestion that LaGuardia should be compared to a restaurant. At most restaurants anyone can make a reservation. Unfortunately, at LaGuardia that is not true.
I am delighted to be here on behalf the air carrier and community members of the Air Carrier Association. As Congressman Lipinski noted, the FAA once again is suggesting that a temporary rule will control operations at one of the most important airports in this country. The word ''temporary'' was the same word they used in 1968.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We applaud the FAA for recognizing that a problem exists at LaGuardia and that something must be done to counter the reckless scheduling of those carriers that already dominate LaGuardia and the country. Louise Maillett and her staff have worked very hard to come up with a short-term solution. But let's be candid, the monumental delays that exist there as a result of the implementation of AIR21 are caused by 525 to 600 new operations scheduled by commuter carriers.
In response to those who believe that allowing new entrants and limited incumbents to obtain enough slots to hold about 5 percent of LaGuardia total slots creates a preference, I refer to you Abraham Lincoln, who once said it is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time, you even fool some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time. We know they can't fool this committee.
The FAA lottery process has favored one group: The Nation's largest carriers. Under the FAA temporary lottery large incumbent carriers get the following: All existing slots are grandfathered; they can continue to sell and lease slots to each other; they can operate unlimited extra sections and they can add slots for new computer service. We believe that small and medium communities need additional competition. We look forward to adding that kind of service to Buffalo or Rochester and Knoxville. If you give us the slots, we will be there.
New entry carriers are already bringing low fare service to these markets. Spirit Airlines is serving LaGuardia from Myrtle Beach and Melbourne. We are also bringing low fares. AirTran has brought the first low fare service to Pittsburgh. And although there were 34 round trips already in the Chicago-New York LaGuardia market, it wasn't until ATA entered that market that we saw low fares. If these carriers can obtain reasonable numbers of slots, imagine what price savings they will bring to others in the country.
Large carriers operate more frequencies to their primary hubs than new entrants operate in total. There really has seldom been a more unlevel playing field. Some of the carriers who have complained the most about the so-called preference, what have they done? Well, Continental, which already dominates Newark, an airport where it is very difficult for new entrants to get gates and facilities, they have added service at LaGuardia, and which small markets did they enter? Cleveland, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. Yes, they are proposing service to other markets. Perhaps they can move some of the slots they are using for these cities to those other markets. US Airways added five frequencies in the Baltimore-LaGuardia market. Delta is proposing to add additional frequencies from Atlanta to LaGuardia. United is adding additional frequencies from Denver to LaGuardia. This is a deregulated market. We think every carrier should be able to do whatever they want, but deregulation means true deregulation and true competition.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Let me read a quote to you that supports my association's position on this: Here is the quote. ''to allocate limited resources to the already dominant entrenched network alliances at the expense of new entrant competitors is to ensure and accelerate the trend toward consolidation and monopolization. For these reasons in allocating the frequencies at issue, this Department should apply the pro-competitive policies that are fundamentally rooted in the advancement of U.S. domestic and international aviation objectives. The Department's policy should marry its substantial efforts to support and sustain new entrants and smaller carriers as an essential competitive force in domestic markets.''
That comment was made by Steven Wolf when he was advocating that US Airways be able to get new international authority. We submit that that same statement applies domestically.
The FAA can take some steps immediately to increase the slots available to new entrants in small and medium communities. One, let's suspends extra sections authority. Considering the number of flights available between Boston, New York and Washington area airports, do these carriers really need additional operations between those airports? Number two, the buy-sell rule should immediately be suspended. We shouldn't be allowing these carriers to decide who will operate in their place and which market should be served. And finally, as Congressman Oberstar has advocated on several occasions, it is time to withdraw and reallocate slots held by incumbents at LaGuardia.
We view this as a temporary action and we trust that the FAA will take these other steps to level the playing field. Passengers and communities should not be subject to delays and costs associated with the type of problems that exist at LaGuardia. While it is essential to address these problems, the FAA and the Department must be mindful of the future of airline competition. AIR21 took an important step in the promotion of increased competition. Now is not the time to take two steps backwards to make permanent the dominance that a few carriers hold over the LaGuardia market.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In the last few weeks we have already seen new fare increases and are now hearing that we may be facing holiday slowdowns by some of the Nation's largest carriers. That is why new entry is more important to the American consumer than ever, including new entry into the small and medium markets. We thank you for holding this hearing. We look forward to working with you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Faberman. I am going to yield my time for questions to Mr. Quinn.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me thank all of the witnesses this afternoon for their testimony. Mr. Meckler, I want to thank you, and of course Mr. Doug Hartmeyer is with you today, and please thank Louis Carr, the man at the helm there. And the County Executive Doyle, I want to thank you for your input. We are your next door neighbor over there in Rochester and Buffalo. So a lot of what we are doing that seems to work we are anxious to share with you. When you go from number 2 in costs to number 43 in about 21/2 years, indeed something is going right up there, and we want to help you do that.
Mr. Meckler, if I can connect the dots for a minute on this whole competition discussion, you mentioned in your testimony that since AIR21, the enactment of it, we have addedyou have added about eight additional jets. How is the flight numbers on these?
Mr. MECKLER. Essentially, you know, they have been very successful. Prior to that US Airways had the only service to LaGuardia. They had six flights a day. But if they canceled flights or operational inefficiencies throughout their system affected their runs, you know, people really didn't have a lot of choices.
Mr. QUINN. Are the new flights generally full?
Mr. MECKLER. They have excellent load factors. They haven't shared the information with us, but they are doing very well.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. QUINN. The slot lottery you say could eliminate some or all of that jet service. What other options would passengers have?
Mr. MECKLER. US Airways, whatever the schedule is for US Airways, or they have to go to different airports.
Mr. QUINN. So the demand is still high because there are people going on these eight additional flights that are going every day?
Mr. MECKLER. Yes, the demand.
Mr. QUINN. And the remaining flights then, what option would they have only to go with existing flights, to sell the seats? They are the dominant player in the market, US Airways happens to be. It is safe to assume they will be able to charge whatever they want.
Mr. MECKLER. There will be no competition to LaGuardia. That is what would occur.
Mr. QUINN. So then we are back where we were 21/2 or 3 years ago, with the same frustration that the County Executive has in Rochester that the competition isn't there. So whether we like it or not, we have backtracked. We have returned to where we were with something that was reasonably well assured would work. Thank you. I don't mean to insult your intelligence, but for my own purposes I need to connect some of the dots.
Mr. Faberman, I want to mention that your suggestions at the end of your testimony I think really merit some more discussion. And if this kind of slot lottery can be temporary, some of your suggestions could certainly be temporary as well.
Mr. FABERMAN. We look forward to working with you.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Quinn.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have listened to and read previously the testimony of the witnesses, and I appreciate the effort that has been devoted to making your statements and staking out your positions.
Ms. Shulman, over the decade that we have had, roughly, the PFC rule in place, the New York-New Jersey Port Authorities collected there at LaGuardia and JFK and Newark a little over $919 million. $7 million approved PFC has been committed to LaGuardia for planning. $1.669 billion are approved for projects, of which 1.2 plus billion are JFK and 407 million at Newark, to add passenger capacity, improved access to the airport in the Port Authority's own words. None of this PFC money is dedicated to improving capacity on the air side. Does that trouble you?
Ms. SHULMAN. Well, the theories about air travel change from year to year, as you well know. Several years ago, the theory was we would increase the number of passengers at both LaGuardia and Kennedy by making the airplanes bigger. So there wouldn't be any more flights, just be bigger airplanes. But we seem to be going in the other direction right now. There is money in the budget for a one-seat ride to LaGuardia. We are currently building a one-seat ride from Jamaica to Kennedy. But I believe that isthat does not really fulfill the needs. You need a one-seat ride from Manhattan all the way to Kennedy in order to solve this problem. That could solve it quickly, just cost a lot of money, and the focus and the will to do it.
Mr. OBERSTAR. But still there has not been, it seems to me, a concerted effort on the part of the Authority to expand the air side capacity of these airports. If you are at a limit of capacity on individual aircraft, and I agree with you, several times I myself have said the way to increase capacity quickly is to add larger aircraft. That does, however, create some air traffic management problems with wake turbulence the air traffic controllers have to be very careful about. We do consider a 757 to be a wide body, and it does create wake turbulence that then means the end trail has to be spread out longer than you might otherwise be able to do. So that affects your arrival and departure patterns.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 But I guess if I were in your shoes I would be very troubled to have all this congestion but no one is really addressing the air side congestion. I recognized when we fashioned the PFC that a good deal of it would be used to improve passenger access to airports and passenger passage through terminals to gates and aircraft, but not 80 some percent which has been the case. 77 percent of the PFCs have been used by airports to deal with the land side problems.
Ms. SHULMAN. There are so many legitimate competing interests for the use of that money that it boggles the mind to discuss it in 2 minutes. The transportation priorities in the State of New York are interesting. I am sure that Congressman Nadler will attest to that. We are doing the very best that we can. We are trying to keep our airports efficient and effective. We understand that the business vitality of Manhattan depends largely on air efficiencies of air travel for LaGuardia Airport, and that is why we are here today because a serious problem. We want to accommodate all of these people that need additional accommodation for air travel in their small cities. We agree with that. I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the schedule could be if you did it on the merits.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, I think thatI suggested in my opening remarks that it might be useful, I think more than might, would be useful for the use of antitrust immunity authority for the FAA to bring the carriers together with Port Authority and the FAA and work out agreements to spread operations out during the day so that there will not be a win-lose situation, and even to spread operations out to unused times at JFK.
Ms. SHULMAN. Well, see, the daytime has plenty of openings at JFK. That is why I advocate the one-seat ride. If you could get Manhattan businessmen to JFK quickly, they would go there. But they won't go on to you because it is hard to get to Kennedy. That is a problem. They are certainly not going to take the A train that goes through Brooklyn. So the only way we are going to get them to JFK is to do a one-seat ride. It is doable and it may be expensive, but it is worth it.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. OBERSTAR. In time we will have the technology. The tilt rotor aircraft that is now becoming operational for the U.S. Marine Corps, our subcommittee held hearings on this a decade ago, is now undergoing commercial aircraft development at Fort Worth. I saw the first test model being built of a commercial scale passenger tilt rotor aircraft. Vertaports and higher speed and greater wing lift of the V22 tilt rotor will be a great asset and solution to much of the problem here. But that is probably 5 to 10 years off. There isn't anything in the short term. So meanwhile what we have got to do is manage the air space better, manage it in the interest of safety, and find ways for all carriers, without losing their place in line, without losing value, to spread those operations out to a greater portion of the day, and I recognize the problem that may be for airport neighbors, but somehow I think that can be accomplished.
Ms. SHULMAN. I live near the airport and I want to tell you that the peak hours are now expanded because at midnight while I am reading in my bed I hear the airplanes overhead because I live near LaGuardia. So the peak hours are now expanded because of the need. So you know, where the airplanes would kind of disappear at 10 they are now arriving at 12. Also, we have takeoffs in the morning at 5:30. People live two blocks away from the airport.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes. I will conclude with just a word of sympathy for Mr. Doyle. My late wife was born and raised in Rochester, New York. Monroe County Airport, I made many trips there over our 28 years together, and I greatly sympathize with the problems that you are having, really truly a victim of deregulation, and the lack of interest in carriers in providing adequate service to Rochester.
Mr. DOYLE. Thank you for your sympathy.
Mr. OBERSTAR. I wish I could do more about it. Maybe here we can. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. Nadler.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you. Let me ask a question of Mr. Seymour. We certainly appreciate the necessity for service to cities like Knoxville and the importance of the New York market to cities like Knoxville or upstate New York City, such as Buffalo and Rochester and other places. And you have come here and testified today that you oppose the lottery because it might reduce service availability to your city. I understand that. At the same time we have real delay problems and, despite Mr. Faberman admonition, safety problems. And it is putting your head under a pillow to think that these congestion problems don't meet the safety problem just because the air traffic controller's job is to make sure they don't. We have had near misses and they come out every so often in the papers. And one of these days it is not going to be near. It will be a hit. We are living on borrowed time. So if you don't like the lottery system, it is all well and good to say, gee, don't do that, but do you have any other suggestion for what we might do so that we don't fail to accommodate Knoxville and Rochester and Buffalo but also don't run the risk of lives of all the people from Knoxville and Rochester and Buffalo and from everywhere else that are flying in LaGuardia?
Mr. SEYMOUR. I don't havethank you for the question. I don't have a silver bullet or one quick answer. I think this committee and the Port Authority and the others, the FAA and others who are involved in the decision-making on this issue should look at market driven solutions to the problem. Somebody.
Mr. NADLER. It is the market that produced this problem. Why do you think market driven solutions would solve the problem?
Mr. SEYMOUR. I don't think it was the market that produced the problem. It was the original rule in 1968 that sort of locked in service to LaGuardia that produced the problem, and suddenly that rule is lifted. You have got a scarce resource there. You normally allocate that by price or our economy in the private market allocates that resource by price. Now, how you do that, if I am sitting in the shoes of the Port Authority of New York looking at the situation, I would start, one, looking at landing fees, adjusting those during certain hours, looking at encouraging.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. NADLER. Excuse me. Let me just pursue that a second. If you allowed the allocation of the scarce resource of landing space, slots, gates, et cetera, at LaGuardia by price, then volume would enable the price to drive the allocation of landing slots to Los Angeles and Chicago and other high volume travelers to New York and places like Rochester and Buffalo and Knoxville presumably because you would have fewer people per day or per plane, people per day coming to New York than say Los Angeles or Chicago. The price would be sky high in Knoxville and somewhat lower in Los Angeles. How would that solve your problem?
Mr. SEYMOUR. What I am saying is, and I am not suggesting solely a market-based approach but I think you ought to look at market-based approaches. One of the issues Ms. Shulman raised is there is capacity at Kennedy, there is not capacity at LaGuardia. She suggests a railroad, a fast train to Kennedy from Manhattan. Well, that is.
Mr. NADLER. We have tried that. The Port Authority resolutely refused. They are building a clunker instead.
Mr. SEYMOUR. With the use of landing feesand this is not the magic solution but it is one area that can lead to perhaps an ultimate solutionthe Port Authority can encourage traffic to Kennedy during nonpeak hours, which I understand are during the daytime hours, encourage traffic into LaGuardiayou know, they have the 8:00, noon and 5:00 problem, sort of spread throughout the day, but to use landing fees as one part of the solution.
I don't have a complete solution for the problem. I suspect nobody on this subcommittee does.
Mr. NADLER. What I don't understand is if you use landing fees as part of the solution, the landing fees would have to be a lot higher for planes coming from a place like Knoxville than from a place like Los Angeles because you would have more people coming in per plane, because you would have a higher volume.
Mr. SEYMOUR. We are flying RJ's from the market like Knoxville and I believe upstate New York is using RJ's, which the landing fees are considerably less than they are, if I am not mistaken, for the larger aircraft. I am just saying I think the subcommittee, the FAA and all concerned ought to look at solutions that have a market base to them. I think the reason the problem exists today is there was an attempt in 1968 with a command to solve the problem there, and when that rule is suddenly lifted, you have got what several witnesses have described as a serious problem at LaGuardia. And I would agree.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. NADLER. What you are really saying is that we have had a government allocation system for a long time and the problems we are having at LaGuardia now are a transition phenomenon going from that to a free market system and that once the free market system is over, the transition problem, things will sort themselves out. The problem of course is how you get from here to there. It may take you 5 years and five air crashes. We have got to figure out a way to go from one place to the other.
Mr. SEYMOUR. I don't think further rules like the original High Density Rule or what is described now as a temporary measure by the FAA which may become a 5-year, 10-year, 15, even a 30.
Mr. NADLER. Some of the suggestions of Mr. Faberman.
Mr. SEYMOUR. I think certainly his suggestions have a lot of merit.
Mr. NADLER. But they are not market based is what he said.
Mr. SEYMOUR. Well, certain of them are. The airline industry is not and the transportation industry in this country is not a free market like a lot of other industries. There is going to be a role and will continue to be a role for government oversight and regulation. But to arrive at a place where all these needs are accommodated, we need and should not rule out market-based solutions and they ought to be incorporated in the solutions we arrive at.
Mr. DUNCAN. I believe Mr. Doyle wanted to say something.
Mr. DOYLE. In response to Mr. Nadler's comment, we kind of believe in the concept of community slots. Really before the HDR rule when it was.
Mr. NADLER. What did you mean by community slots?
Mr. DOYLE. Slots allocated to a community over which the community would control it rather than the main line air carriers. In our area the main line air carriers are in control of the whole program. They help control the slots at all of our slot airports. They control the traffic. And they have boxed out effectively the low fare carriers.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. NADLER. So in other words there should be X number of slots at New York for Buffalo, at LaGuardia for Buffalo and Y number for Rochester and X number for Knoxville.
Mr. DOYLE. The communities, no matter what communities you are talking about, certainly know what the demand is for air traffic. We are not into their pricing game but we certainly know where the demand is. And from 1968 on the Federal Government has been in charge of this. And the locals show up at these tables and complain. If you were to delegate to the locals some degree of authority and control over community slots as to where these slots would go, to which carriers, you could strike a balance.
Mr. NADLER. I think what you say makes sense. I don't quite understand it. LaGuardia is where there is the congestion problem, not Rochester or Buffalo. So you are saying.
Mr. DOYLE. Our slots would be at LaGuardia.
Mr. NADLER. So who would allocate how many number slots at LaGuardia go to Rochester and how many at Buffalo and how much at Knoxville?
Mr. DOYLE. Both the Port Authority and the locals would participate in that process. You would have to demonstrate community need, community-based need for both low fare carriers and for a competitive marketplace. But at least we wouldn't be at the mercy of one major carrier controlling 45 percent of our air space and all of the others forcing all the other low carriers out.
Mr. NADLER. So would you have some New York or perhaps Federal Government Port Authority or Federal authority determine how many slots at LaGuardia go to Buffalo, and have Buffalo government determine who gets those slots?
Mr. DOYLE. Well, in a way.
Mr. NADLER. I don't see anything wrong with that.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DOYLE. Today you are giving those who are in the market-for-market share.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Nadler, I am sorry. We have other witnesses. I will say this just for your own information. Knoxville, Fortune Magazine 3 years ago said it was the most popular place to move to in the whole country based on number moving in and fewest moving out.
Our airports had 22 percent growth over the last 2 years. It is a very fast-growing area. I am told by staff that as of November 1, there are 1,344 flights a day at LaGuardia. So if you had at least some market-based considerations in the allocation of these flights, they wouldn't necessarily all go to Los Angeles or simply to the eight or 10 biggest cities that we always hear of. There is great demand in Knoxville, Buffalo, Rochester and some of these other medium-sized cities, especially when you consider that there are these many flights each day.
Let's go to Mr. Lipinski for any questions that he has.
Mr. LIPINSKI. My first question is to anybody on the panel that would like to answer the question. This is in regards to the lottery. Is there anybody on the panel that believes that the carriers who are under the HDR rule should have been included in the lottery or should it have been strictly for the AIR21 carriers or should we have put everyone into the lottery?
Mr. FABERMAN. Yes, thank you, Mr. Lipinski. I do believe that it is time for the FAA and the DOT to recognize that this grandfathering that has lasted for 30 years has gone on too long, and that some of those slotssome of the slots that have been held by the incumbent carriers should also have been included in the lottery, yes, I would agree with that.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. Not all but just some of them?
Mr. FABERMAN. Even I would not suggest that incumbent carriers could lose every one of its services in a short period of time. Since the FAA is promising that they will get a new rule in place by next September, I am willing to say let's take 2030 percent in the existing slots and include them in reallocation, and when they have the permanent solution in place, you know, in the next few months, we could live with the rest being there. If they don't have a permanent solution in place, then I think everything should be up for grabs.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Do you think that we should have a new lottery?
Mr. FABERMAN. I think every single slot at the airport should be up for lottery.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Don't you think that might create some economic problems for the long-time carriers operating out of LaGuardia if we were to do that or if we were to eliminate or suspend the buy/sell rule?
Mr. FABERMAN. I don't think that the carriers at O'Hare.
Mr. LIPINSKI. O'Hare is functioning extremely well under AIR21.
Mr. FABERMAN. I understand that, but the slot rule is disappearing there.
Mr. LIPINSKI. It is disappearing there in a much quicker time period than it is at LaGuardia. I believe that may be one of the problems with LaGuardia.
Mr. FABERMAN. I agree with that. No, I don't believe that there would be any economic upheaval. I think that the large carriers have plenty of places where they can grow. They are putting in billion dollar facilities at Kennedy and doing expansion internationally. The large carriers are the ones that have most of the aircraft in this country. New entrants have some, but they would not be able to take all of the slots. I do think that the winners would be the communities. There would be lots of communities that would be able to participate, and I think would be able to get new service because of that.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. Certainly besides lifting the high density rule and giving places like O'Hare and Kennedy and LaGuardia an opportunity to bring in more flights, certainly one of the major emphasis that we always had with regard to AIR21 legislation was to serve these small and medium-sized markets around the country. I think that the spirit of our legislation is being violated if those people do not get the service that we more or less guaranteed them when we passed AIR21.
Ms. Shulman, you talked about a suit that you have filed against the Department of Transportation?
Ms. SHULMAN. Yes.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Along with the mayor of New York?
Ms. SHULMAN. Right.
Mr. LIPINSKI. What is the status of that suit?
Ms. SHULMAN. I think that suit is going to be heard sometime this month. The last date I heard was December 11.
Mr. LIPINSKI. So the lottery has been held and that is going to put a cap once again on LaGuardia, but you are going to continue to go ahead with the suit?
Ms. SHULMAN. I think the issue is even more than the slots. It is that the U.S. DOT did not engage in any environmental review with the great increase in flights into LaGuardia, and I think that may be required and I think that is the issue.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I don't recall anything in the AIR21 legislation that would have required them to do so. Now there may be other existing legislation that possibly would have required them to do so, but as far as our own legislation, I don't think that there was anything.
Ms. SHULMAN. Corporation counsel knows more about this than I do, I am not an attorney, but I understand that there are EIS requirements for such an action.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. We do need to move on to these other witnesses. Let me just say, though, that I think Mr. Seymour made an outstanding point that applies to many, many communities throughout this Nation, many cities, the Buffaloes and the Knoxvilles, when he said that we need access to New York, but New York needs people coming from our communities. I probably wouldn't have thought so, but New York City is the number one market for people coming from Knoxville. Knoxville has almost 2 million passengers a year and growing very rapidly. So it is not an insignificant thing, and I think these other cities can say the exact same things. We have heard testimony about great successes, and based upon the fact that we all need each other in this situation, I think there may be a way to solve some of this to the satisfaction of most people. I hope so anyway.
Thank you very much for being with us. You have been an outstanding panel.
We will call up the second panel, and once again we are honored to have the witnesses on the second panel. The second panel consists first of Ms. Louise Maillett, who has been with us several times before. She is the acting administrator for policy, planning and international aviation of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mr. William DeCota who is the director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Mr. John Carr who is president of the national air traffic controllers association.
TESTIMONY OF LOUISE E. MAILLETT, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR FOR POLICY, PLANNING AND INTERNATIONAL AVIATION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION; WILLIAM R. DECOTA, DIRECTOR OF AVIATION, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY; AND JOHN CARR, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Ms. Maillett, we will begin with your statement, please.
Ms. MAILLETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am pleased to be here to discuss the recent slot lottery for New York's LaGuardia Airport. I would ask that my written statement be made part of the record.
Mr. DUNCAN. All full statements will be placed in the record.
Ms. MAILLETT. Thank you. The principles of promoting competition and increasing air service to America's underserved communities have been a shared priority of the department and this committee. Implementation of those principles in AIR21 to LaGuardia has presented a unique challenge to the FAA.
As you have heard in the previous panels, this is clearly an issue of demand exceeding supply. Supply at LaGuardia is limited. I won't go into the details which have been covered by the previous panels of the numberof the limitations of LaGuardia Airport or the impact, specifically at LaGuardia of the additional 600I am sorry, 300 operations, because I think it has been covered, and all of the statistics that I have are similar to the ones that have been done by previous panels. It is true to say that the additional operations at LaGuardia have caused extensive concern. There has been an unacceptable level of delay at LaGuardia as a result of the existing operations today at LaGuardia, and the fact that we see no change in behavior.
There are additional planned operations for December and January, and we have seen no change in behavior that would make us think that things are going to improve at LaGuardia. But in addition to the concerns that we have about the local impact at LaGuardia, we also have a very serious concern at LaGuardia in that there is a national impact, the impact of LaGuardia on the whole system. LaGuardia is an airport in the middle of the Nation's busiest air space. Seven out of 10 U.S. air carrier aircraft travel through New York air space on any given day. So the impact of delays also have a rippling effect throughout the national air space system.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 As part of the national aviation system, their performance and constraints affects travelers nationwide. You heard the statistic, over 20 percent of the national delays are attributable to LaGuardia. This requires FAA to institute traffic management measures to mirror travel often for 12 hours a day. They affect departures and arrivals throughout the country. Aircraft intending to land at LaGuardia are placed in holding patterns at locations also being destined for other airports. Again, another example of the ripple effect.
An unplanned 5-to10 minute hold for just 15 LaGuardia arrivals can affect 250 aircraft in 20 minutes. These delays are not acceptable for LaGuardia and for the whole system. That is why action by the FAA was necessary. If we did not act, we believed that the situation would only worsen. So faced with that data and the urgency of the impacts, both systemwide and at LaGuardia, we agreed that something had to be done.
On November 9, we issued a notice of our intent to conduct a lottery and sought public comment. We received 36 comments in which we received, by and large, broad support for the view that the situation at LaGuardia needed immediate action. A final notice was issued on November 29; and as you know, the lottery was conducted yesterday, December 4th.
Let me emphasize that this is a temporary measure. I think that was one of the concerns I am sure we are going to address, but we very consciously put a time limit in this proposal because we wanted to commit to trying to move forward in addressing this in a different way. We needed to move right away, but we knew that we had to do something beyond that, so we put ourselves on a tight time line. It appears that we will have additional help in focusing on this problem and resolve it aggressively. We know that it is not going to be easy. This has been very helpful for us, and I thank the committee for having this hearing, because it has been very helpful to hear the conversations of the previous panels and of the members, and we will take those notes, along with the comments and suggestions we got in our comment period for the slot lottery and other actions that we have taken under advisement as we try to formulate what is the next step for LaGuardia.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 As we go with the lottery, I want to close with one point and that is, while it is true that there is going to be less operations as a result of our actions at the FAA, that is the only way we saw in the short term to address the serious concerns we had with delay. With the lottery in place, there are 159 more operations at LaGuardia than there was prior to the enactment of AIR21. There is a greater level of competition and more options for consumers, the small and underserved communities. I know that it is not the full intent of AIR21, but I think it is an accomplishment that you should be credited with, and it is important to keep your eye on. That concludes my remarks, and I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Ms. Maillett.
Mr. DECOTA. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. On behalf of the Port Authority, I want to take this opportunity to thank you and Chairman Shuster, Mr. Lipinski, and other members of this subcommittee for the enactment of AIR21. The bill will stimulate investment in competition in ways that will enhance the Nation's air transportation system.
Today we will talk about some of the unforeseen consequences of the legislation and how that can best be managed within the intent and spirit of what the legislation intended. Unfortunately, no one could have anticipated that the major carriers would so vigorously defend their competitive position by LaGuardia Airport by adding so many flights as to really exact huge economic consequences on the flying public and on the very same small airlines and small cities that the bill was intended to assist.
The Port Authority operates four airports in our airport system: Newark, Kennedy, and LaGuardia Airports, and Teterboro, which is our general aviation reliever. Among them, they produce huge economic benefits, which has been demonstrated by the huge interest in access which has been testified to here before this subcommittee. Each airport serves a very different role, but I think it is very important for the people at other airports, for airlines and for the consumer to recognize in a lot of ways they are very interchangeable. They operate as a system, almost as one airport.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The airports are very intensively utilized. We have 90 million passengers, nearly 3 million tons of cargo, 1.4 million aircraft movements, yet we only have 8,500 acres of land, and all of our airports lie within 20 miles of each other. In response to increasing demand for access to the New York/New Jersey market, we are actively pursuing several initiatives to increase the capacities and efficiencies of those facilities.
At Newark, we recently completed the runway extension which increases options available to flights, especially for pilots waiting take off and landing. We built a new traffic control tower. At Kennedy we have a new air traffic control tower. We have a number of airside improvements underway. We are adapting the airside of the airport to handle the new large aircraft that are under discussion with Airbus.
We have invested in technology that are having tremendous savings and capacity in efficiency enhancements. By 2010, at our three airports, there will be a total of $15 billion invested among all of those airports. Because of the very limited horizon geography that we are dealing with, all of that is intended to bring more passengers and cargo, but there are physical limits on additional planes. A big piece of that investment is intended to make airports like JFK more accessible and attractive to increased service, particularly short and long-haul service.
Our region is the largest population center in the entire Nation. We have some of the busiest and most complex air space. There is a chart up on the easel that shows one day's operations at our four airports. It shows how traffic crisscrosses the sky, and that air space particularly is a significant constraint on capacity. We are hopeful that the FAA will continue to redesign air space and untangle the arrival and departure streams which will also benefit noise within our surrounding communities.
We urge this subcommittee to support those key capacity enhancements which we think offer vast customer service benefits. That is years away in terms of benefits. In addition to air space redesign with the subcommittee's support, the FAA can help increase the efficiency of LaGuardia Airport by accelerating construction of the air traffic control tower that is being planned.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 LaGuardia Airport is a vital component of the system, but is the smallest of the airports we operate. It has a very constrained physical environment. It is surrounded by Flushing Bay, very dense residential neighborhoods. It has two intersecting runways. It is only 680 acres. As this diagram shows, LaGuardia Airport would fit comfortably within the Kennedy central terminal area. There have been a number of restrictions that have been in place at LaGuardia since the 1950's to try to control demand. A perimeter rule enacted in 1984 restricts flights to 1,500 miles, peak hour flight fees restrict general aviation activity, and the slot rule has obviously maintained some control over the level of access for many years.
In spite of that we make remarkable utilization of the airport. There are 24 million passengers that are handled. No other airport anywhere else in the entire country does so much with so little. We have been predicting moderate growth at LaGuardia, but we have been predicting doing that with larger aircraft, not drastically more. The number of flights at LaGuardia Airport last year was the same as JFK, yet now we are seeing the number of movements at LaGuardia far greater and having a much more constraint environment to try to handle all of that activity.
While the Wendell H. Ford Investment and Reform Act of the 21st Century I believe will be remembered as landmark legislation, it did have the unintended consequences of releasing a frenzy of requests for new flights on the part of the major airlines.
Of the more than 600 flights that were requested, which is a 50 percent increase over the normal 1,100 movements per day, we saw that many of those flights were by the major carriers, in fact, over 530, which already dominate the airport. The New York region might have the passengers to make some of the regional jet flights profitable, but LaGuardia doesn't have the physical capacity to support it. RJs don't need as large a load factor to be profitable, and by law, the airlines are able to generate very high ticket prices based upon market pricing, yet airports have to charge landing fees based upon less than the value of air field facilities. So the airport is really not operating on a market basis, which is one of the reasons why we have seen this huge unmet demand that comes to the airport.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 As I said, we are trying to equip larger aircraft. We are building out the airport to handle Boeing 767400 aircraft, and we are trying to change the situation where right now 5 percent of our passengers are traveling on 25 percent of the flights.
As a prudent airport operator, we have done what we feel we had to do to prevent gridlock. Initially, we asked the airlines to please tell us what new flights they had planned to add. Subsequently when we saw that number was beyond any capacity of the airport, we asked them to reschedule some of those flights outside of the most congested time frames. Some of those requests were ignored. Congestion at LaGuardia is far more than just an inconvenience. It is very unacceptable on the basis of all of the information that you have heard about delays here today.
We are also concerned about traffic jams on the ground. There have been incidents where aircraft come into contact with each other and other craft, with ground equipment. There are tolerable delays on the part of the passengers, and we also see passengers who have waited. As recently as Friday we had 12 planes waiting for several hours trying to find a gate. Faced with gridlock, we work with the FAA to come up with some situation to provide some relief from this very deteriorating situation. We considered a whole range of alternatives.
Lotteries which were used in the past were chosen as the alternative that would be implemented quickly and quite fairly. We are hopeful that it will eliminate gridlock, but it is not going to completely eliminate the delay situation.
I would like to be clear that our preferred alternative would be some kind of a demand management approach that is market based, but also accommodates the needs of new entrants, small communities and regional jets. We did look forward to collaborating with the DOT and all parties concerned to come up with what that alternative might be.
Mr. Chairman, thank you and the subcommittee for the opportunity to give you our views on this controversial issue. I would be pleased to take questions from you and other members of the subcommittee.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. DeCota.
Mr. CARR. Thank you, Chairman Duncan and Mr. Lipinski. My name is John Carr, and I am president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to appear before the subcommittee to discuss the problem facing New York's LaGuardia Airport. The current situation faced by LaGuardia is unique. For over 30 years, Federal regulations have limited the number of arrivals and departures, and passage of AIR21 passed the first chance for airlines to significantly expand their operations at the airport. NATCA supports the policy objectives of AIR21 to enhance competition and improve air service to smaller communities. However, the need for this expanded service must be balanced against gridlock and safety concerns.
As an air traffic controller, I can tell you that we are under extreme pressure to squeeze more and more aircraft into already congested air space. Our motivation is to move aircraft as safely, as efficiently and as quickly as possible. The longer a delayed aircraft is on our air space or occupies concrete, the more difficult our jobs become. While safety is our business and business is very good, controllers at LaGuardia should not be put in the position of compromising that safety margin to accommodate more flights. NATCA strongly supports the combined efforts of the FAA and the New York/New Jersey Port Authority to address the congestion crisis at LaGuardia. Market forces have failed to limit the amount of flights at the airport, and therefore prompt action is not only necessary but warranted.
Airport capacity is a function of its size, the layout of the runways, the traffic patterns and the time frame in which this surge of traffic must be dealt with due to scheduling. By comparison, with many other major airports, LaGuardia is small. Chicago O'Hare has over 62,000 feet of runway, while LaGuardia has only 14,000. The airport covers only 640 acres, small enough to fit into the central terminal complex of JFK. Some people will tell you that picture is actual size.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 This year, LaGuardia will handle 375,000 operations yet they will suffer more delays than either Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago or Atlanta, each of which will handle double the amount of operations. However, it is very important to note, as the FAA's witness described, delays and gridlock at LaGuardia routinely create delays and gridlock at other airports. LaGuardia is bound by waterways, communities and highways which make further expansion impossible. The airport has only two runways which intersect, and with intersecting runways, the distance the departing aircraft must travel from point of takeoff to crossing is a major factor in establishing an airport's capacity.
At LaGuardia, when departures are running to the north and west, aircraft must travel 5,500 feet to the point of that intersection with the crossing runway and the arriving aircraft. However, when departures are run southeast, the distance is 1,500 feet to the point of crossing, thus allowing for more arrivals and departures to be sequenced. Unfortunately at LaGuardia, prevailing winds and surrounding airports mandate that departures run northwest on most days. LaGuardia's problem is compounded by its limited ground space. The high volume of travel creates increased ground traffic, and arriving aircraft are unable to taxi expeditiously to their respective gates.
Neither the FAA nor the airlines keep very good statistical information on arriving aircraft taxi times, while wait for a gate or access to a gate for an hour or more after touchdown is no longer uncommon. For instance, the airport handled a record number of aircraft, 1456 operations on November 27, 2000. On that day, aircraft that landed as early as 9:20 p.m. were still waiting for gate space as late as 3:30 a.m.
LaGuardia can accommodate approximately 72 operations per hour. It is possible for the airport to exceed this but only under favorable weather conditions. With inclement weather, visibility or the type of landing approach in use which prevents visual separation, LaGuardia will not be able to handle even these 72 operations. Without the intervening actions of the FAA and the Port Authority, the current situation will only worsen. The slot lottery is only a short-term solution. Even with capping of slot exemptions at 150 a day, LaGuardia will remain at the top of the Nation's list of delay prone airports. Permanent solutions to the problem of gridlock still seem to evade the aviation industry. Meanwhile, air travel is predicted to exceed 1 billion passengers annually by 2010. This air traffic control system is a national treasure, and it demands thoughtful, proactive decision-making to achieve real and lasting improvements, not only in procedures, but in the processes and in the infrastructure.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I would like to extend to you NATCA's assistance to all involved in developing ways to utilize the limited capacity and ground space at LaGuardia in a more efficient way. Thank you very much, and I will be happy to take any questions you may have.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Carr.
Ms. Maillett, you know that the Port Authority on September 19 proposed a flight moratorium, yet in a hearing that we held on flight delays in September, Secretary Slater said in response to a question from Congressman Sweeney that the Port Authority did not have the authority to impose that flight moratorium. Do you agree with Secretary Slater that they did not have the authority to impose that flight moratorium?
Ms. MAILLETT. Mr. Chairman, yes, I do. That is part of the reason why we moved forward as aggressively as we did. I think the Port Authority deserves a lot of credit for raising the issue and flagging the issue as aggressively as they did, but we decided that it was more appropriate to manage the issue and to issue the notice of intent under the FAA's authority.
Mr. DUNCAN. Do you foresee similar situations developing or starting to occur at many of the Nation's other crowded airports, LAX and O'Hare and Kennedy in the afternoon and San Francisco? Boston, for instance, I have heard that they are considering this same type of thing.
Ms. MAILLETT. Yes, we believe that the situation at LaGuardia is very unique, so we don't see this as having applicability broadly across the system. Just to go to some of the specific airports that you mentioned, at O'Hare there are six runways, not just two intersecting runways. It is an airport built to handle a lot of operations. It is much more flexible. It is able to adjust to the different demands of the weather and of the operations. Very, very dissimilar from LaGuardia.
San Francisco, the same type of thing there. They have delays and they have capacity programs underway. They also have a different type of delay problem, it is primarily weather, specifically fog-related. So our belief is if you look at LaGuardia, they really, because of the way they are, because of the operations into them, it really is a unique situation that is going to be very difficult to extrapolate this approach to other airports.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Of these 1,344 in and out flights, flight operations at LaGuardia, can you tell me roughly what percentage are cancelled each day?
Ms. MAILLETT. No, I can't. I can provide that for the record, but I do know in the afternoons and evenings, it is a very common occurrence because of the delays.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. DeCota, the FAA has indicated that the lack of taxiways and holding areas has contributed to the congestion at LaGuardia. Do you have any plans to improve the ground side capacity at LaGuardia and start spending some of those PFC funds to improve the capacity at LaGuardia now?
Mr. DECOTA. Mr. Chairman, I have a diagram that I would like to show the subcommittee that I think would show what the constraints at LaGuardia Airport are with regard to trying to do exactly as you have questioned. Just a quick reference, I mentioned in my comments that LaGuardia Airport is a constrained airport, it is 680 acres. You can see a photograph here where it is bounded by Flushing Bay and the Grand Central Parkway, and it is surrounded on all sides by densely populated communities.
The first step is to determine whether the airfield capacity could be expanded. We have an overlay which we would like to show you, which is what you would effectively have to do in order to try to accommodate the kind of increase that we are talking.
In yellow, we are showing parallel runways to the existing runways, but only at a 700-foot separation. That would require that we would have to go into water and disturb community at the least amount possible in order to get any kind of capacity increase at the airport. That capacity increase would be very marginal because you can only use that under visual conditions and in nonsimultaneous operations.
What you see in red would be having the required 4300-foot separation on parallel runways to dramatically increase the kind of capacity. Assuming you could do that which would be a big assumption because of the environmental issues and the community issues, the next step you would have to deal with is trying to get all of those flights in the air in the vicinity of LaGuardia in light of the spaghetti chart, which is the first diagram that we put up there.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our intent has been to build LaGuardia out to grow. It handled 24 million passengers. We would like to see 30 million passengers use that very small infrastructure. That is a tremendous, tremendous increase.
But we exist as a system, very much like the Washington airports exist as a system. If you take a look at Reagan National Airport in the same context as LaGuardia and in the context of BWI and Dulles, LaGuardia and Reagan National have a very limited capacity to grow, but what we have looked at is using the other airports which are substitutes, which is why we spend a lot of money on access to encourage people to use them and find them more desirable, but it is not practical to expand LaGuardia beyond the boundaries that it currently has.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Maillett, when you decided tofirst of all, do we have a safety problem at LaGuardia or do we have a congestion crisis at LaGuardia?
Ms. MAILLETT. That is very helpful. There have been a lot of concerns raised today on the issue of safety. Safety is something that we think about every day in everything that we do, but our actions at LaGuardia have been based on the issue of significant congestion at LaGuardia and throughout the system.
Obviously if that were to continue, we would start to have safety concerns. But with the extraordinary work that is being done by the air traffic controllers, by the authority, by the pilots, we don't think that at the operational level that we are at today or will be with our lottery that there are safety concerns at the airport.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I would assume that one of the reasons for the congestion problems that we are having and the delay problems that we are having is because we want to make sure that we keep the safety margin as perfect as possible, so I assume that our safety concerns do somewhat lead into the congestion problem also?
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. MAILLETT. Safety is our first concern. The FAA ensures that our air traffic controllers take the actions necessary to maintain that safety, and I am sure that is what Mr. Carr has said in his testimony. So that is very, very important. So we always will say we will hold the traffic rather than to cause any sort of unsafe situation.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Do you have an opinion onwe hear all of these people talking about all of the delays at LaGuardia. And yet there are so many people wanting to fly into LaGuardia, obviously, even though it is 3 hours on the tarmac and the flight is only an hour and a half, there must be some great advantage if people are willing to put up with all of these delays, even those people from upstate New York and places like Knoxville, they experience delays but they still want to keep that service into LaGuardia. Obviously, the air carriers are scheduling all of these flights because they are making money off these flights. It would seem to me that everybody involved in the situation ought to be more realistic about it. Instead of Delta Airlines saying that the flight from Knoxville to LaGuardia is going to leave at such and such a time and arrive at such and such time, they can say, we are going to try to leave at such and such a time and the air time might be so long, but finally getting you to the gateI think if people were to address this problem in a more realistic manner, I think it would be helpful to the Port Authority, to the FAA, to the carriers and primarily to the passengers while you are developing this ultimate solution to the problem.
I also would like to ask you on September 16, 2001, if somehow you don't manage to come up with this magnificent solution to the LaGuardia problem, where do we stand? From what I read, the lottery will no longer exist at that time. Do we go back to what it was underneath AIR21 or do we go back to what it was under the high density rule or have we not crossed that bridge yet as far as the FAA is concerned?
Ms. MAILLETT. We have not. If we did absolutely nothing, it would go back to the status quo. But obviously.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. What is that?
Ms. MAILLETT. No restrictions and AIR21 with full operations. However, if in September these same types of concerns are in existence as today, that would be doubtful. I think we need to try to find out what is the next step. I think today some of the suggestions that were put on the table are things that need to be considered. The chairman's comments had some concerns, things that we actually considered as part of our short-term approach and decided that they had complexities in them that were unable to be undertaken right away, but those are the types of things that need to be part of the solution.
In September it may be a phased approach here. I don't see a simple solution from what I can see and from what I have heard today and talking to various folks, so we may need to have a phased approach, and how do we move from where we are today to where we want to be, which is lifting all of the restrictions.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Regarding why was the lottery implemented, because of the safety problem or because of a congestion crisis, you maintain it is a congestion crisis. Where does the FAA get the authority to implement this lottery at all? Where does it come from? If it was a safety issue, I could understand it, because you certainly have the right to do so. But it is not a safety issue, then I would like to know where you have this authority from?
Ms. MAILLETT. In the basic FAA law there is authority provided to the administrator, in fact, authority that was echoed in AIR21, to manage the air space for the safety of the aircraft as well as for the efficiency of the system, and that is the basic statutory authority that we have used to manage the air traffic system. We believe that is the basic authority that provides us with the underpinnings for the action that we took.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I happen to disagree with you. I applaud the FAA for your courage in getting into this situation and trying to bring some sanity to this situation, particularly in light of the fact that the Congress of the United States really is not in session enough at the present time to thrust itself into it; and frankly, I don't know if they would have the courage at the present time to do so either, but I seriously question whether you have the authority to do so.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Did you consider having a lottery for not only the AIR21 carriers, but also for the high density rule carriers, putting everyone that operates out of LaGuardia into the lottery?
Ms. MAILLETT. Yes, we did. We thought that that would befor a short-term approach would be too complicated and too disruptive. We think that is something that needs to be on the table for purposes of the longer term or for purposes of consideration, but we did not think that that was something that could be done quickly. It would require rulemaking as would the chairman's suggestion of the six general aviation slots.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Why would that require rulemaking?
Ms. MAILLETT. Both of those are in the current High Density Rule regulation that we have right now.
Mr. LIPINSKI. That is really the Department of Transportation, the FAA's rules. It is not law at all.
Ms. MAILLETT. We could do it. It just would take more time. We thought because of the requirement to go through the rulemaking process, and because once you start opening up the high density rule, the question is how much should you be going into it. For example, should you open up all of the High Density Rule. Should you open up 20 percent, 30 percent. How much would be enough to address concerns? We thought it was too complicated for something that needed to be done as quickly as we thought that this needed to be done. That does not mean that those are not issues that should be studied and looked at.
Mr. LIPINSKI. In the event that you do not come to this magnificent solution by September 16, 2001, you look at the possibility of eliminating the High Density Rule for the purpose of putting all of the existing carriers into this lottery becausewell.
I have one last question. That is the incumbent carriers, Delta, US Airways, United and Continental, each received 20 additional slots in the lottery?
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. MAILLETT. That is correct.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And these are all to small and medium-sized markets, correct?
Ms. MAILLETT. Yes.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Have any of the markets that they received slots for here underneath the lottery, have they been markets that they have been serving in the past or are these new markets that they are going into?
Ms. MAILLETT. I am not absolutely sure. I believe some markets are markets that they have been serving before. That is my understanding. I would have to double-check that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Are they simply increasing their frequencies to these markets because they are encountering new entrants, competition in those markets?
Ms. MAILLETT. I think it is a little bit of both. You heard from some of the communities that had service for the first time, but there is also areas where they havethey have had increased frequencies rather than new markets. As you heard from Mr. Faberman, there are new entrants that are serving small communities, so it is kind of a mixture of that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. In conclusion, I'm wondering if we have a small market that was being serviced by commercial airline X two times a day and a new entrant comes in and starts servicing 2 times a day, and airline X decides that they want to get a couple more slots, I am not sure that is healthy for competition. It may be an attempt by carrier X to force out the new entrant.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. Maillett, Claire Shulman argued in her testimony and there is a testimony, and there is a lawsuit by her and Mayor Guiliani based on this, that substantive environmental reviews should be conducted before granting of a substantial number of flights at a New York airport. I assume that under NEPA, under the National Environmental Protection Act, any Federal action that would significantly affect the environment needs an EIS, and substantially increasing the number of the flights would be a Federal action. What is the FAA position on this? Do you believe that actions such as you have taken to substantially increase the number of flights requires an EIS; and if not, why not?
Ms. MAILLETT. The suit technically is against the Department of Transportation, and I believe our response back to that suit is that there was no discretion in the granting of the exemptions. The AIR21 statute provided thou shall grant those exemptions.
Mr. NADLER. In effect, you are saying that this legislation insofar as that is concerned superseded NEPA?
Ms. MAILLETT. It becomes a ministerial action, I believe is the terminology. That is basically what I understand.
Mr. NADLER. So this legislation superseded NEPA whereas you normally need an EIS to take a Federal action, or to do so by the legislation, and therefore.
Ms. MAILLETT. It is not that it supersedes it. If you look at the NEPA legislation, what it contemplates is not something like this type of an action that is ministerial. This action as characterized in AIR21, when you look at it in the context of NEPA requirements, is not required to go through that type of review. I believe that is the.
Mr. NADLER. Because it is ordered by Congress?
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Ms. MAILLETT. Because there is no discretion left in the Federal action.
Mr. NADLER. No discretion administratively because it is supported by Congress.
Mr. Carr, you stated that a capacity benchmark has not been established for LaGuardia. Are you aware of any efforts to derive a capacity benchmark for LaGuardia?
Mr. CARR. Yes. The FAA is undertaking an effort to identify capacity benchmarks for many airports, and I don't know the status of that undertaking.
Mr. NADLER. Ms. Maillett, what is the status?
Ms. MAILLETT. I don't know the time line. I can get that for you.
Mr. NADLER. I would appreciate that. Mr. Carr, you note that no data is kept on arriving aircraft taxi time. That is the time from touchdown to when the aircraft reaches a gate, or for that matter, I don't know if any data is collected on how long an airplane must wait from the time that it leaves the gate. As long as it left the gate on time, it is on time, even if it waits an hour and a half for takeoff. Would collecting such data, taxi time away from the gate help in deriving a capacity benchmark?
Mr. CARR. In my opinion any data is useful in deciphering the problem of capacity at our major airports.
Mr. NADLER. Do you think that this data is essential to getting capacity benchmark?
Mr. CARR. Essential, no. Important, yes. I can't characterize it as essential because not every airport has the unique problems that LaGuardia faces. Perhaps in LaGuardia's case it might be essential. An undertaking of that sort at every airport I don't view as essential.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. NADLER. But I am talking about in the context of LaGuardia.
Mr. CARR. Certainly it would be helpful in establishing a benchmark for that airport.
Mr. NADLER. Ms. Maillett, how are you going to get a benchmark if no one is looking at that data?
Ms. MAILLETT. I know that we collect a huge amount of data. When the department issues a delay, that is a certain type of delay, as you defined. But for purposes of operation at the FAA, we track aircraft and are trying to get better all of the way along the process. In fact, in AIR21, I believe there was a direction that we should improve the way in which we track data in order to do better in this area. I think the answer is that we are doing that. I think that is tied with the benchmarks.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much. Let me just say, Ms. Maillett, to the FAA, that we have many other cities from New Hampshire, Maine that wanted to testify, and we had to limit it someplace. This is not just a New York City situation. I hope that you will work with all of the communities and all of the cities involved to try to meet as many of these needs and requests as possible before you come up with hopefully a final solution in September.
Thank you very much for being with us. You have been most helpful and that will conclude this hearing.
[Whereupon, at 4:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
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