Airlines Threatened With Scheduling Restrictions

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Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters appears to accept that general aviation is not to blame for flight delays at major airports and says her department will impose scheduling restrictions on airlines, if necessary, improve on-time records. The first target could be JFK in New York. Peters has called a meeting between airline representatives and the FAA for Oct. 23-24 to discuss the problems. “Our first choice is to find market-based incentives to fix delays so we can preserve passenger choice, but we will consider imposing scheduling restrictions as one option to avoid a repeat of this summer’s delays,” Peters said in a news release. As part of their campaign to create a user-fee system for FAA services, the airlines have alleged that general aviation traffic is largely to blame for airline delays but Peters doesn’t mention little airplanes in her release. She notes that in the 18 months ending in August, airlines boosted the number of scheduled flights into JFK by 41 percent and the number of arrivals being delayed by more than an hour went up 114 percent. The airport’s overall on-time record dropped to 59 percent. Last month, Peters formed the Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which will report to President Bush in December on ways to reduce airline delays. At the same time, she said, her department is monitoring chronically delayed flights and looking at ways to improve consumer protection, such as requiring increased compensation for passengers who are bumped.