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New Plan Would Charge Airlines During Peak Hours

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TWC News: New Plan Would Charge Airlines During Peak Hours
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Under a new policy announced by Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters Monday, airports would be able to vary the landing fees they charge based on time of day, charging the airlines higher prices at times when the skies are most congested.

Airlines nationwide could charge a five to ten percent landing fee for flights coming in during peak times.

The idea being to spread flights out throughout the day, creating a system where there are more flights scheduled during off-peak hours and fewer flights during the peak hours. That, according to federal officials, could cut down on the number of delays and make flying more reliable.

"Now, instead of having a flight that is predicted or scheduled to leave and arrive at a certain time, and then kind of a roll of the dice about whether it will or not, this is going to give more reasonable assurance that flight is going to get there when that flight needs to be there,” said Peters. “By varying the charges, the airports then can control the number of flights that come in during a given period of time and spread that peak out over a longer period."

Similar to the mayor's congestion pricing plan, the extra money raised by the fees could go toward airport expansion projects, like the current plans to expand Stewart Airport north of the city. The plan could mean higher fares if airlines pass the increased costs on to customers.

In a statement, the Port Authority -- which manages the local airports -- praised the Federal Aviation Administration for focusing on the issue of delays, but says the new policy does not do enough.

The agency and other critics, like New York Senator Charles Schumer, say there are bigger issues, including an antiquated air-traffic control system.

"The FAA, instead of getting at the heart of the problem, is always nibbling around the edges," he said. "Today's proposal isn't going to make much of a difference, and if the FAA focused on the real problems, not enough controllers in air towers, not enough technology, and the ongoing internal battle between the controllers and the FAA, they could solve things a lot more quickly."

The policy will be open to public comment for 45 days before it is finalized.

Meanwhile, Secretary Peters also reiterated her support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. She said she told him earlier today that she has a $350 million check for New York City sitting on her desk in Washington that she will rip up on April 1st if no congestion pricing plan has been approved.


"I do want to be very, very clear about the deadline," said Peters. "That deadline of March 31st is firm."

Moreover, an alternative plan being considered that would create East River Bridge tolls may disqualify New York from federal funding, Peters says, because it doesn't vary price by time of day.
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