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ACI-NA, Airlines Cheer GAO Ruling On Newark Slot Auctions

ATA Says Decision Affirms View That Action Is "Unlawful"

Not surprisingly, on Wednesday two of the most vocal opponents to a controversial DOT plan to auction off landing slots at Newark International Airport applauded a ruling by the Government Accountability Office, which states the plan may in fact be illegal.

The Airports Council International–North America (ACI-NA) and Air Transport Association (ATA) each applauded the GAO General Counsel opinion, released Tuesday, stating  the FAA lacks authority to auction arrival and departure slots at Newark. The opinion also concluded that FAA similarly lacks authority to retain and use auction proceeds as proposed in the pending rulemaking proposals for LaGuardia Airport and for John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In comments filed with FAA regarding the slot proposals, ACI-NA made the case that FAA did not have the statutory authority to conduct the auctions and was unlawfully usurping the proprietary right of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) with the misconceived proposal.

"We are pleased that the GAO decision vindicated the airport position that FAA has no statutory authority to force the slot auctions, which are universally opposed by the airport industry," said Greg Principato, President of ACI-NA. "FAA should focus on working collaboratively with the PANYNJ to develop and implement a reasonable and effective program to reduce passenger delays and congestion."

Those sentiments were echoed by James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association, the chief lobbying group for the nation's airlines.

"ATA and the airlines applaud the clear and decisive opinion rendered by the GAO, which affirms what we have said all along -- that the DOT slot auction is unlawful. We urge the FAA to put their focus and attention on increasing capacity and airspace redesign to make progress in actually reducing delays," said May.

ATA also maintains the GAO decision "overshadowed" a decision made Tuesday by the FAA Office of Dispute Resolution (ODRA) lifting a stay on the auction at Newark... though the GAO decision actually carries no real legal weight.

FMI: www.gao.gov, www.dot.gov, www.aci-na.org, www.airlines.org

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