Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Reason



My regular readers know I spend a lot of time talking about runway capacity and slots. “Slots” is kind of a catchall for regulating the number of aircraft scheduled to use an airport. It’s really a simple concept and only gets confusing when you start adding in weather, runway configurations, the number of runways and a few other factors. But the underlying concept remains simple -- only one airplane can use a runway at any one time and that time is roughly one minute. One minute to land. One minute to take off. Sixty airplanes an hour, per runway. Thirty arrivals. Thirty departures. The math is inescapable.

As simple as that concept is, it might make you wonder why so many people in the aviation industry have such a hard time understanding it. They really are bright people. So what’s the problem ? To quote Upton Sinclair;

” It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.“

If I haven’t made it clear before, an article I stumbled on today should make it crystal clear.

”Southwest (NYSE: LUV) is able to provide the New York City service because it bid $7.5 million to win the rights to ATA Airlines’ 14 slots at LaGuardia last year. “

For those that don’t like math any more than I do, that would be $535,714 per slot. I don’t know if they bid those slots by month, year, decade or what, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out we’re talking serious money. And if the thought hasn’t hit you...if they’re willing to pay that much, imagine how much they must be making.

So, when I say LGA (LaGuardia) should be restricted to 36 arrivals per hour and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (or the FAA, or the airlines, or a Congressman) says 44 -- that becomes a $4 million dollar (give or take $285,000) question. Gettin’ the Flick ?

Don Brown
April 8, 2009

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