With New York now officially on the way to starting a massive reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport, there is speculation that one of the major partners in that project — Delta Air Lines — might be expecting to get something in return, like an agreement by state officials to lift the 30-year-old “perimeter rule” that limits flights out of LGA to no more than 1,500 miles.
If that happens, it would open the door to non-stop flights from LaGuardia to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, among other cities.
As the $4.3 billion redevelopment of LGA proceeds over the next several years, Delta will make a substantial investment in improving its own terminals there. Delta controls about 40 percent of the flights out of LaGuardia, while American has 28 percent. In the new design, Delta’s Terminals C and D would be linked to a new central arrivals hall as the separate parts of LaGuardia are combined into a single modernistic structure.
In announcing the redevelopment plan, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even said that without the participation of Delta, the project wouldn’t be happening.
Even before the LaGuardia announcement, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had started to investigate whether its LGA perimeter rule should remain in effect; and now the thinking seems to be that with a brand new airport close to Manhattan, New York should also adopt a new outlook toward airline service there.
Delta tried to advance that thinking in a recent letter it sent to New York officials, arguing that everyone — especially business travelers — would benefit from a LaGuardia that could offer flights across the country. (American Airlines also is on record backing an end to the perimeter rule, saying it would add transcontinental flights at LGA if it could.)
In its letter, Delta noted that lifting the perimeter rule is “especially important for business travel.” The airline said more than a third of the corporate domestic travel spending in the New York area is to destinations outside the 1,500-mile limit. That percentage is even higher for some key industries, Delta said, like media/entertainment (55 percent) and banking/finance (38 percent).
To answer the concerns of politicians from upstate New York, Delta pledged that if the perimeter rule goes away, “no small city will lose service to New York City…We remain fully committed to our current service to upstate.”
Delta’s letter cited the examples of Washington Reagan National’s partial lifting of its flight distance limits, citing studies showing that growth there “did not come at the expense of BWI or Dulles airports,” and that keeping a perimeter rule would “contribute to the underutilization of slots.” The airline also predicted similar benefits for Texas from the recent lifting of the Wright Amendment restrictions at Dallas Love Field.
Delta said with three airports serving New York City, lifting the perimeter rule at slot-constrained LGA “would simply allow the airlines to take the same number of daily slots at each airport and allocate those slots to the airport that best serves true demand. And most importantly, passengers would have the freedom to decide their preferred airport.”
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