By Bryan Schwartzman
“It's worse this year than it has ever been before,” said Schumer during a morning news conference at the airport. “You look around this terminal, you should see smiles. Instead you see faces of frustration and anger.”
The terminal was surprisingly calm as Schumer spoke about chronic flight delays at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, and Newark airports, although lines and delays were expected to increase later in the day as travelers prepared to take flights for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Last week the Federal Aviation Administration reported that in September, LaGuardia counted for a fifth of all delays in the nation.
Schumer's staff compiled its own “Traveler Index Misery” data and found that Newark, LaGuardia, and Kennedy each have an average delay of about 40 minutes per flight and rank first, second and third, respectively, for most the most airport delays in the nation.
By comparison the average Travel Misery Index of the other 26 major airports in the country was just under 27 minutes, according to Schumer.
“Flight delays at these airports will only double if nothing is done,” said Schumer.
Schumer said last month he was on a flight leaving from LaGuardia that sat on the runway for three hours. He also said two years ago a flight delayed out of Washington caused him to miss his daughter's junior high school graduation.
“That was the lowest point of my political career,” said Schumer.
Delays at LaGuardia have exploded exponentially since Congress passed AIR-21 earlier this year, which provides for an unlimited regional flights to undeserved cities using small aircraft with fewer than 70 seats.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has declared a moratorium on any new flights and the FAA has announced it would hold a temporary lottery among airlines offering regional service with the intended goal of drastically reducing the number of flights at LaGuardia.
But Schumer said the FAA should schedule more flights at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the average runway waiting time at the New York airports is less than 20 minutes, compared to 40 minutes during peak times.
He also said the FAA must modernize the air traffic control system and install computer hardware known as Stars, which has been implemented in other areas.
Schumer also urged Congress to pass the Amtrak bond act in order to develop high-speed bullet trains through the Northeast. One-tenth of weekday flights from LaGuardia are shuttles to either Boston or Washington.
“Europe is as densely populated as the Northeast, but it does not have the same kind of air traffic,” he said. “If you're in Paris and you want to get to London, you take high-speed trains.”
Bob Bellena, an Iowa resident but regular traveler to New York said he has not found delays at LaGuardia to be that bad.
“My layover is usually an hour, so the half-hour delay at LaGuardia usually doesn't hurt me,” said Bellena, whose was visiting his mother in Long Island.