Citing possible adverse effects of current airport restrictions, the Civil Aeronautics Board has invited comments on proposed recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration that it change the procedures being used to allocate access to 22 major airports.
"The board is concerned with the economic effects that the FAA's restrictions have had on individual air carriers and communities, and on competition in the airline industry in general," the CAB order said. The board said that it had undertaken its examination of the FAA's procedures at the FAA's request.
Under its proposal, the CAB asked whether the FAA should take some slots now used by general aviation--private aircraft flying--and use them for commercial airlines specifically to meet the needs of new entrants with a few large aircraft, airlines facing particular hardships and communities that lose all air service because of the airport restrictions.
The board's action was its second in two weeks raising questions about the FAA's allocation of operating rights--called slots--at the airports whose access has been restricted since the August 1981 strike and firing of the air traffic controllers.
A week ago, the CAB recommended to the FAA that it consider changing its definition of "new entrant" to give airlines less than three years old some priority in gaining expanded operating rights as the FAA makes them available.
Under the FAA's current regulations, some priority is given to "new entrants" but the term is defined so narrowly that few airlines are eligible. Under the FAA's definition, only airlines that had applied for federal route authority by Aug. 3, 1981, the day the Professional Air Traffic Controllers began their strike, and weren't operating yet on Feb. 17, 1982, are considered "new entrants."
The CAB told the FAA last week that new entrants should be given priority for a portion of the slots that come available as new traffic controllers are hired. But it asked the FAA to consider redefining a "new entrant" as any airline that began service with aircraft seating 60 or more after Oct. 24, 1978, the day the Airline Deregulation Act was signed into law. Under the CAB's proposal, an airline would be classified as a new entrant for three years; after that, it would be considered an incumbent.
In its latest order, the board said it didn't question the FAA's judgment that there has been a need to restrict access to the nation's airways because of the reduction in the controller work force. But it said it was concerned that the FAA's method of allocating slots among users might erode, over time, "the important progress that has been made toward achieving the goals" set forth in the airline deregulation law.
"Ease of entry is one of the hallmarks of deregulation, and the air carriers that have been formed or have begun jet service since passage of the law have played a key role in spurring competition," the board said. "Yet the limits to access under the FAA's regulations have resulted in significant new regulatory barriers to entry.
"To the extent possible, we want to ensure that the anticompetitive effects of these restrictions are minimized," the CAB said.