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Federal Court Blocks Bush Administration From Auctioning Airport Landing Slots

by Leroy Baker,, New York

15 December 2008

A plan launched by the Bush administration to try to auction takeoff and landing slots at three of New York's airports has been blocked by a federal appeals court.

The plan was called to a halt by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on December 8, after the Port Authority of New York and Jersey claimed that the Federal Aviation Administration cannot legally authorize such actions.

The Bush administration designed the flight auction to try to counter the ongoing flight delay problem which has plagued New York's busiest airports – Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty – for some time now.

However, the regime has riled both airlines and Democratic lawmakers, who have lodged strong objections against it amid fears that, in reality, the scheme would achieve little other than raising airline fees for passengers.

In a statement regarding the federal court's decision, the Port Authority said it: "applauds the decision halting the Bush Administration's 11th-hour plan to auction existing landing and take-off slots at the New York metropolitan airports to the highest bidder, which would invariably drive up ticket prices for passengers for the same service without alleviating delays. We are confident that upon full review, the court will agree that the Administration does not have the authority to conduct an auction, and we look forward to working with the next Administration to develop real, long-term solutions to improve air travel."

However, Sarah Echols, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, argued against this, commenting:

“This court decision is bad news for travellers seeking a better flying experience in and out of the New York region. We are committed to our goal of protecting travellers, giving passengers more options and improving the air travel experience, and will continue to assess our options to provide relief.”

The first auction was scheduled for January 12 – eight days before the presidential handover – but the court's block on the auction means that it is now likely the flight delay problem will fall to President-elect Barak Obama to solve.

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