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CNN Today

What Can Be Done to Alleviate Delays at New York's La Guardia Airport?

Aired February 15, 2001 - 4:28 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, chronic delays are a problem nationwide. Joining us from today from Denver is Thom Nulty, who runs Navigant International, that's a company that works with business travelers and Thom, you're a guy, I know, who travels all the time. Is this the problem of the airline or the airports?

THOM NULTY, PRESIDENT, NAVIGANT INTERNATIONAL: You know, it's a little bit of both, Joie. I think it has a lot to do with the airport, La Guardia specifically. Several years ago, they opened La Guardia up to additional flights and they may just have overscheduled La Guardia.

It's a very, very popular airport. The airlines want to maximize their trips in there, and I think the result is that we end up with a lot of delayed flights.

CHEN: You know, the thing I have heard, and I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I've heard that on time is actually signified by when you pull away from the gates and not necessarily when you get off the ground or when you land.

NULTY: I think it actually really signified oftentimes by when you arrive at your destination is on time, because you can actually pull away from the gate and still sit on the ground a long time or actually hold in the air. The on time arrival should be the on time arrival.

Now, departure times can also be delayed, but I think they're really tracking the arrivals.

CHEN: And talk to us a little bit about this notion of weather being the problem or something like that. I mean, we hear that a lot at the airport, but I've got to tell you I think there's a lot of doubt and skepticism among travelers that it's really the weather.

NULTY: Well, you know, sometimes it is the weather, but sometimes it's not the weather where you're at. It can sometimes be the weather from another city. An airplane could start off in, let's say Seattle, early in the morning with fog, and be delayed that day all the way through the day until it actually ends up in La Guardia at some point of time.

I always tell frequent business travelers and others if you want to make sure you're going to get there, you really improve your odds by getting on an airplane earlier in the morning. Those airplanes are generally not as delayed as flights later in the day.

CHEN: Thom, we're going to ask you to stand by for a moment here. Joining us from La Guardia Airport today is Al Graser, who is deputy director of aviation for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and that means among his authority is both La Guardia, Newark and JFK.

Mr. Graser, La Guardia and Newark named among those with the worst on time records or with these flights with the worst on time records. What can be done to fix this problem?

AL GRASER, DEP. DIR. OF AVIATION, PORT AUTHORITY OF N.Y. AND N.J.: Well, one of the things that has been done, and as Mr. Nulty said, the problem was exacerbated last year when Congress passed the bill called Air 21, which had a lot of great components which was is going to help resolve things in the future where a lot of additional funding will be provided for capacity enhancements.

But one of the ingredients it had which was negative, it authorized a large increase of flights into La Guardia. La Guardia was one of the four high density rule constrained airports in the country since 1968, and there was a cap on the number of flights. In essence, what Air 21 did, it removed the cap for two types of activities: new entrant carriers and underserved cities, and the airlines, by coming into the vacuum where there was no high density rule, had announced 608 additional flights in La Guardia. By the end of the year, over 300 had been scheduled.

CHEN: OK, so you're saying that the airlines are taking, I guess, advantage of the new situation and they're bringing in more flights, which I guess is good business for them. But if that's the case, if the airlines are creating the problem, then how are you guys going to stop it?

GRASER: Well, we did. Starting last August, we said that enough is enough and too much is coming in, and we asked the airlines not to put as many flights in or to reschedule those flights to Kennedy, which has the capacity. And finally, as the fall went on, we in the FAA actually announced and held a lottery on December 4th which reduced the 300 flights by approximately 140, and that reduction went into effect January 31st, and the reduction and the delays have been material since then.

CHEN: OK, final word to Mr. Nulty, then, have you seen any difference since the end of January?

NULTY: You know, it's really too early to tell. Certainly, if we look at statistics, it appears that things have improved. And that's really what it would take. Now, some of your travelers may not like that so much because La Guardia is incredibly popular and one of the reasons flights are so crowded is that people want to go there. But when they have delays, they sure don't like it.

CHEN: All right, gentlemen, we thank you both for being with us: Al Graser on the telephone line with us for the Port Authority of New York and in Jersey, Thom Nulty of Navigant International with us as well today

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