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U.S. plan to ease air congestion runs into head winds

Some critics say a proposed cap on New York flights would raise costs. Others say better traffic management is the key.

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An ideological dogfight is under way about the skies over New York and how best to ease the congestion at the region's three major airports.

Its outcome will affect millions of American fliers – because half of all delays in the country from Chicago to Dallas to Los Angeles originate over the Big Apple. At issue is whether the Department of Transportation's proposal to cap the number of flights at each airport and then auction off landing slots to airlines would end up reducing costs and congestion – or increasing them.

In Washington this week, the battle heated up during a contentious session at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer (D), minced no words, telling the House Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee that the government's plans were "hare-brained" – nothing more than "untested market-based ivory tower ideas" that will make things far worse. The Department of Transportation (DOT) shot back that Senator Schumer was more interested in "obstructing" efforts to cut delays than in modernizing the nation's antiquated air traffic system.

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