With 4100 flights a day, skies over New York remain gridlocked
Business traveler Jerry Green loves New York. It’s the flying in and out of there that drives him crazy.
“I’ve had incredible delays,” says Green, a consultant from St. Petersburg, Fla., who visits New York on business at least eight times a year. “I remember one night we didn’t get there until 3 a.m., and I had to be in front of a customer at 8. I travel everywhere, every week, and it’s the only place I go that I truly dread.”
For airlines, the skies over the New York City metropolitan area are the most sought after in the U.S.— and the most crowded. With roughly a third of all flights in the nation flying to, from or through the New York area, congestion there can lead to rippling delays that ground planes and frustrate passengers from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.
Recognizing the critical role New York plays, federal and local officials are taking a series of steps to keep air traffic moving. New flight lanes are being carved in the skies, runways are being widened and limits are maintained on the number of flights that can take off and land at the region’s three major airports: LaGuardia, JFK and Newark.
Work also continues on the satellite-based navigation system known as NextGen that’s ultimately supposed to make room for more planes to fly safely in tight space across the nation’s air traffic network.
“We’re a place people want to visit, we’re a place where people want to do business,” says Susan Baer, aviation director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the three major airports. “There’s a lot going on in a very limited space. There are things that we’ve done that have made a difference and that we’ll continue to do to make a difference.”
Despite the efforts, LaGuardia, JFK and Newark registered some of the highest rates of delays in the country last year. LaGuardia and JFK sit so close to each other that the takeoffs and landings at one can affect departures and arrivals at the other. And unlike their counterparts in places such as Dallas/Fort Worth or Denver, the New York airports have no real room to expand, meaning, some industry experts say, New York’s gridlock won’t disappear any time soon.
There’s been progress, says Stephen Van Beek of LeighFisher, a management consulting firm specializing in transportation. “But suffice it to say that New York in particular, because of its incredible level of demand, (and) shortage of capacity, you’re dealing with a structural issue that’s not going away.”
4,100 flights a day
Every day, within 15 miles of the Statue of Liberty, roughly 4,100 flights make their way toward their destinations, according to the Port Authority.
For U.S. airlines, the New York metro area is the biggest moneymaker and most popular starting point and destination in the country. In 2010, U.S. carriers took in roughly $16 billion from flights to and from New York — more than twice the revenue made from flights to and from Chicago, the next-largest market, says Steve Lott, spokesman for Airlines for America, the airline industry’s trade group.