U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
In the matter of: :
Final Rule : Docket No. DOT-OST-2007-0022 :
Enhancing Airline Passenger :
COMMENTS OF FLYERSRIGHTS.ORG
ON REQUESTS OF VARIOUS AIRLINES
FOR TEMPORARY EXEMPTIONS FROM 14 C.F.R. § 259.4
AT JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
FlyersRights.org, representing the interests of airline passengers, has reviewed the requests of JetBlue Airways Corporation (“JetBlue”) and Delta Air Lines, Inc., (“Delta”) for the Secretary of Transportation to grant temporary exemptions from the application of that provision in DOT’s newly-promulgated regulation, Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections, that will require U.S. airlines serving John F. Kennedy International Airport (“JFK”) to comply and adhere to a contingency plan pursuant to which the requesting airlines will not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours or, in the case of international flights, for a determined period of time. 14 C.F.R. §§ 259.4(b)(1) and (b)(2).
The airlines request this exemption from April 29, 2010, when the new regulation becomes effective, until November 2010, the estimated period of time during which Runway 13R-31L (“Bay Runway”) at JFK will continue to be closed for reconstruction.
FlyersRights.org strongly opposes DOT’s granting any exemption from this regulation to these or to any other airlines serving JFK.
In brief, the airlines are asking the Secretary of Transportation, who has statutory authority to protect airline passengers, to give those airlines Federal permission to keep their passengers stranded for more than three hours on taxiways at JFK because airlines have arrogantly overscheduled operations beyond the capacity of the JFK runway system during this temporary period. This overscheduling is possible because the FAA Administrator, who reports to the DOT Secretary, has failed to require the airlines serving JFK to reduce their scheduled operations there to avoid multi-hour departure delays before takeoff during the Bay Runway reconstruction period.
-- These Requests for Exemptions Must be Summarily Denied
The DOT Secretary should deny these airline requests out of hand and direct FAA Administrator Babbitt to meet promptly with the airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JFK’s operator, to require the airlines to realistically schedule airline operations correlated to available JFK runway capacity during this construction period.
-- FAA Has Failed to Manage “Flow Control” Over Unreasonably Long Taxiway Queuing
Airline passengers should not have to endure multi-hour delays on JFK’s taxiways because the FAA refuses to manage “flow control” over the ground movements of aircraft scheduled for departure. FlyersRights.org has recommended for years that FAA’s air traffic controllers at congested airports like JFK should be required to prohibit airlines from pushing their aircraft back from the gate when an unreasonably long taxiway delay before takeoff is inevitable. FAA has resisted, not wanting to preclude the airlines from using those taxiways as passenger parking lots.
-- The Airlines Have Had Many Months to Plan for the Reconstruction of the Bay Runway
The exemption-requesting airlines have long known about the approaching need for the Bay Runway to be closed temporarily for reconstruction. They have had many months to develop alternative solutions that wouldn’t make passengers suffer long tarmac delays: e.g., scheduling larger capacity aircraft, and adjusting departure schedules. Instead, they now propose distorting a new DOT regulation that was designed to protect airline passengers during occasional “irregular operations” (such as weather) to insulate themselves from the consequences of their chronic, everyday overscheduling of flights.
-- DOT’s Granting These Requested Exemptions Would Set a Bad Precedent
Worse, DOT’s granting the requested exemptions during JFK’s runway reconstruction would set a bad precedent. When other airports need to reconstruct their runways, the airlines won’t need to adjust or reduce their schedules to reflect the airport’s temporarily constrained runway capacity; they’ll just petition DOT to switch the burden to airline passengers to be exposed to uncontrolled tarmac delay time.
Kate Hanni, Executive Director
159 Silverado Springs Drive
Napa, CA 94558
March 12, 2010
cc: J. Randall Babbitt
Susan M. Baer
Director of Aviation
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey