Is the LaGuardia Perimeter Rule Ready to Depart??


For more than 50 years there have been restrictions about flights from New York City‘s LaGuardia airport and how far afield planes can fly. Known as the “Perimeter Rule” the limit sits today at 1500 miles (with limited exceptions) and forces longer flights to Newark or JFK airports. The Port Authority is, according to the Wall Street Journal, considering abolishing the rule and allowing flights of any distance from LGA. Longer international flights might still face some challenges based on a lack of immigration facilities but some airports with pre-clearance such as Dublin or Vancouver could suddenly become viable. Imagine if British Airways shifted its London City (via Shannon) service over to LaGuardia, making it even more convenient for the business travelers it serves??

Set up to win big with such a shift would be Delta and American Airlines, the two carriers with the most landing slots at LGA. United Airlines and JetBlue would likely be the biggest losers as they hold smaller slot portfolios and have invested more in Newark and JFK, respectively.

Also, there’s more than a bit of concern for passengers from smaller cities and passengers in general. The Central Terminal Building is in desperate need of repairs, a project which will take years and which was recently postponed another several months. It is already undersized to handle the volume of passengers passing through (I was just there today; it is still bad) and the longer flights would likely come in the way of larger jets so more passengers to carry. Smaller cities would likely see service cuts as Delta and American shift to serve the larger, more profitable options. Then again, those smaller cities might just swap to JFK if the airlines move longer flights to LaGuardia. It seems unlikely that Delta or American would run all the same transcons from JFK and also add in a bunch of LaGuardia flights.

Most of the driving force behind the perimeter rule came from concerns about noise levels. With newer planes much quieter than the jets of 20 or 50 years ago it is conceivably viable that bigger jets serving longer flights wouldn’t be all that much louder than the current planes (or at least than the ones flying when the rules were first created). Also, limits at LaGuardia were used to force some traffic to the other airports as they were established. That demand is very real now and will not disappear completely so opening LGA up wouldn’t necessarily cannibalize those options.

The discussions are still in the early stages according the WSJ piece but they “have accelerated recently,” whatever that means.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

2 Comments

  1. Seth – Back in the early 80’s I use to commute between LGA and DFW on an MD-10 with AA, so large planes have flown in and out of LGA. IFE even had a camera in the cockpit so you see the take off and landing through the front, as well as listen to the cockpit radio with ground control. Ahhh …. with real meals in coach (Seafood dinner with scrimp and scallops), those were the days.

    1. The 767 was specifically designed in large part to serve LGA; big planes can definitely operate there. But the facilities cannot really accommodate more of them (adjacent gates would be blocked in most locations to bring in a wide body) and there is still the perimeter rule. At least for now.

      And there are runway lengths to consider. The planes can operate there but the bigger ones are certainly not fully loaded using a 7000 foot runway.

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