The federal government Wednesday is poised for recommendations on how to reduce flight congestion at some of the nation's busiest airports.
An advisory panel will advise on how to improve the on-time performance of the airlines.
Many of the nation's carriers suffered delays and cancelled flights; and this summer was the worst.
The government and the aviation industry have been in talks for several months in hopes of improving.
Nicholas Peechaneeny and Bob Zach, are at New York's LaGuardia Airport — waiting. They're regular business travelers and say they're late more often than not.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said delays in New York are the worst in the nation; and that the delays have a domino effect.
"Three quarters of flight delays are because planes went into, out of, or through the New York airspace — three quarters of the delays nationally," Peters said.
The cause of those delays is simple, according to President Bush: "In certain parts of our country, the demand for air service exceeds the available supply. As a result, airlines are scheduling more arrivals than airports can possibly handle."
The president said airlines that cause congestion should pay for it. The administration has favored an idea called "congestion pricing," which charges a fee for using crowded airports at peak travel times. Or rationing takeoff and landing slots by auctioning them to the highest bidder.
The point is to offer market-based incentives that would encourage airlines to spread flights more evenly during the day. That makes for better use of neighboring airports as well as moves the maximum number of passengers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But the Bush administration's ideas ran into a wall of industry opposition.
"I think this is pretty much dead on arrival," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.
He said charging extra only works when travelers have other options. And business people, especially, need to fly at peak periods such as first thing in the morning.
"It doesn't help them to leave in the middle of the day because they would just miss the meeting," he said.
The government's other proposal — auctioning takeoff and landing slots — has gained more traction. Industry groups say they're OK with bidding on new slots as they become available, but what will happen to existing slots?
David Castlevetter of the Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. carriers, said airlines have invested a lot of money in the routes they fly and it's not fair to take them away.
"If that auction process seized any of the existing assets then we would have to voice strong opposition," Castlevetter said.>
The Bush administration is also expected to impose caps on takeoffs and landings at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and limit flights at LaGuardia and Newark (N.J.) International airports as well.
Castlevetter said the industry could live with that. "We don't oppose (in theory) caps provided that they are at acceptable levels.
David Stempler, of the Air Travelers Association, believes capping flights would drive up airfares.
Still, the government wants a new system in place by next summer, contending that passengers are already paying dearly due to delayed and cancelled flights.