JFK Runway Project Causes Delays

Continental and US Airways say JFK delays may extend to Newark and Philadelphia hubs.
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NEW YORK

TheStreet

) - Reports show that runway construction at New York's Kennedy Airport resulted in 30 delays in March, one of which lasted for 235 minutes.

But the airport's leading airlines all say the problems are manageable, at least in the context of Kennedy, where air traffic delays are a continual component of doing business - and likely will be until next-generation air traffic control systems are in place.

The four-month project to repave Kennedy's 14,572-foot Bay Runway, which began March 1, means that a third of the airport's traffic and half of its departures are being diverted to three smaller runways.

According to consultant Robert Mann, the Federal Aviation Administration reported 76 "delay events" at Kennedy between March 1 and March 30. These included seven ground stops, when all arriving traffic was halted, and 69 ground delay programs averaging 60 minutes. The 235-minute delay due to runway construction occurred on March 24.

"The overall month's performance was driven by the closure of the Bay Runway, compounded by freakish wind direction and velocity," Mann said. "Some of the JFK delays also influenced La Guardia." Moreover, in seeking exemptions from new rules that impose harsh penalties for tarmac delays,

Continental

(CAL) - Get Report

said JFK delays will lead to longer delays at its Newark hub, while

US Airways

(LCC)

said the impact may extend to its Philadelphia hub as well.

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

, the largest international carrier at JFK, saw minimal impact from the construction, largely because it agreed to a reduced spring schedule for the next several months, said spokesman Anthony Black.

Flights that departed from Kennedy arrived on time at their destination 79% of the time in March 2010, down from 82% in March 2009. The 3% gap compares to a 9% decline in on-time departures, to 61% from 70%, some of which was due to weather. Weather events at Kennedy in March included 65-mile-an hour winds in the middle of the month. "When you take out weather, there was not much impact," Black said.

For

American

(AMR)

, which also operates a hub at Kennedy, "With or without construction, we know that weather will slow things down at New York airports," said spokesman Tim Smith. "Overall, things have gone reasonably well except on the more difficult weather days."

Unlike competitors, American has not been adding flights at Kennedy and did not make reductions during the construction period. Its daily departures remain at about 90 a day, the same as in 2009.

JetBlue

(JBLU) - Get Report

, the largest domestic airline at Kennedy, also said weather was the major problem in March. "Severe impacts have been kept to a minimum, despite challenging weather conditions since construction began," said spokesman Mateo Lleras.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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