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Rising fuel costs cause American to cut more LaGuardia flights

American Airlines and its American Eagle regional affiliate announced last week that they would be reducing flight capacity by eliminating five AA flights and 37 American Eagle regional jet departures at LaGuardia Airport.

"Today's announcement by American Airlines is disappointing and raises concerns for travelers relying on New York's airports," Gov. David Paterson in a statement June 25. "At a time when we are working to make air transportation more reliable and comfortable for passengers, these reductions will eliminate travel options and competition, two key elements of affordable travel."

Along with reductions at LaGuardia, American Airlines will be closing operations entirely at three of its airports, while American Eagle will be closing five of its airports.

American Airlines released a statement saying that these changes are "being instituted to reduce costs and create a more sustainable supply-and-demand balance in today's high fuel-cost environment."

The reasons for the service reduction at LaGuardia are not limited to the rising cost of jet fuel. An outdated air traffic control system is mentioned as affecting operational performance.

"Today the dependability and delay issues that exist at LaGuardia have reached a crisis point and have a daily negative impact on the overall customer service and performance for every airline with flights at LaGuardia," said Bob Reding, American's executive vice president of operations.

American cited historical data from the Transportation Statistics Bureau. During the last five years, delays at LaGuardia have increased 50 percent and now occur on one out of every four departures, with delays averaging more than one per hour the bureau said. These delays are attributed to air traffic control's inability to handle scheduled service levels.

Inbound delays have increased by 55 percent and occur on four of every 10 arrivals, on average delaying arrivals by 60 minutes. Cancellations now average over 5 percent.

"We have to reduce our cost base," said Ned Reynolds, American Airlines' corporate communications manager. Reynolds said fuel will cost American $10 billion this year, up from $3.5 billion last year.

"Employment is undetermined as of yet," he said. "When there are cutbacks, there are jobs that are no longer necessary."

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