Dollars and Jens
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
airport delays and scarce resources
Government Asks Airlines to Ease J.F.K. Congestion
After a pep talk by the secretary of transportation, Mary E. Peters, and the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Bobby Sturgell, the airline executives were taken to separate rooms and brought back one by one to talk to government officials about their schedules.

At some hours, Kennedy has more than 100 scheduled arrivals and departures. The F.A.A. said the airport actually handled 80 or 81 per hour this summer, which is the maximum the Transportation Department wants the airlines to schedule.
This doesn't seem like the common-sense way of doing this.
The D.O.T. has said it may order landing fees that vary by the hour as an incentive to move flights to off-peak periods.
There you go! Unfortunately, common sense has its enemies:
The airlines hate the idea of variable landing fees, and some government officials doubt they will work, because the price difference between landing peak and off-peak would come to a couple of dollars per passenger, or less. The Transportation Department says it has the authority to vary the fees, but only so they are "revenue neutral," so the total amount collected by the airport does not change. The airlines say they will sue if it tries.
On what grounds would they sue? On what grounds would they complain? Is that "revenue-neutral" criterion the reason the price difference couldn't exceed a couple dollars per passenger? Is that in federal law? Can someone remove it so that an effective scheme of rationing a scarce resource by price — rather than by rent-seeking waste — can be worked out? Why do the airlines resist the revenue-neutral version? (Because it would reduce nominal capacity to actual capacity?) I have a feeling the airlines should be told to stuff it.

I can't even conceive how the slots are being doled out now. Any airline can simply schedule as many departures per hour as it wants, and the airport doesn't even try to coordinate it?

If auctioning off departure and landing slots brings in more revenue than compensates you for the costs of running the airport, using the capital and land involved, and any other costs, that means you should probably expand.

The airlines said Kennedy could handle more with better equipment and procedures, and have complained that the department’s target number is too strict. Another problem is that some traffic may migrate to Newark, adding to delays there.
Invest the higher fees in better equipment! Good idea.

Newark airport, like Kennedy, is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Contrary to popular belief, its being in New Jersey does not preclude common sense from operating there, too. Though federal law might.

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