Stuck at O'Hare? Maybe Blame New York

Many of the delays plaguing O'Hare International Airport are due to chronic congestion at New York's airports, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Wednesday.

Fewer than half the flights over the summer between O'Hare and New York's three airports were on time, compared to an almost 80 percent on-time performance for all other flights, said Peters, citing new federal data.

While an ongoing $15 billion expansion of the nation's second-busiest airport, which includes a new runway scheduled to open on Nov. 20, should help reduce delays, Peters said New York could hinder Chicago's efforts.

"No amount of new concrete will help if your planes are stuck in New York," she told reporters at O'Hare. "Chicago shouldn't have to play second city to New York's aviation shortcomings."

"So what we need to do, then, is take what we did here and move it to New York," one traveller said.

And that's exactly what the Feds have done.

Peters said steps are being taken to reduce delays at New York airports, including the appointment of a new air traffic czar for the region, a redesign of airspace patterns in the northeast and the deployment of new aviation technology.

"The sad truth is, all your hard work and tireless tenacity may be undermined because of the record airline delays too many travelers experience every day at the three New York area airports," said Peters, flanked by city of Chicago officials.

A federal report released in July ranked O'Hare last among major U.S. airports in on-time departures. Only about 63 percent of O'Hare flights left on time from January through May, it said.

One constraining factor is that there isn't enough room at the New York area's major airports -- John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark-Liberty -- to build new runways, "which means our task will be more complex, and our solutions more creative," Peters said.

"I'm an optimist," Peters said. "But I do believe we will have a better travel experience by the summer of '09."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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