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May 1, 2014

The LaGuardia Curfew Revisited: Why Your Late Flight Ended Up At JFK

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Written by: Jason Rabinowitz
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Flying from JFK to LGA is still faster than driving on the Van Wyck

Each night in northwest Queens, from now through the end of the year, a little known rule takes effect at LaGuardia Airport that ends up sending passengers to the wrong side of the county. Referred to as a curfew, it gives the Port Authority the right to close down LaGuardia to fixed wing air traffic from 12:01am to 6:00am between April 5th and December 31st. Once the clock strikes 12:01am, the Port Authority has the option of closing down the field, denying any late arriving flight from landing.

The curfew rule is not set in stone, and historically exceptions have frequently been made. During times of bad weather that create ground delay programs, the Port Authority may extend the curfew as they deem necessary to allow a bulk of flights to land at their intended destination. When exceptions are not made, however, a diversion is the only choice for an aircraft already en route. Most flights that miss the curfew end up 10 miles away at JFK. At this point, airlines will give passengers the option of either terminate there, or take a bus ride back up to LaGuardia.

 

The curfew rules exists for two official reasons. First, noise abatement. Officially, the Port Authority states “To reduce noise, the Port Authority asks the airlines to voluntarily avoid scheduling aircraft operations before 6 a.m. and after 12 midnight at LaGuardia airport. This has a positive effect with regard to aircraft noise at night.” In addition, the curfew also allows heavy maintenance work to be carried out at night without interruption from aircraft operations.

Repositioning flights from JFK to LGA are short, but still not nearly the shortest commercial flight in the world

Repositioning flights from JFK to LGA are short, but still not nearly the shortest commercial flight in the world

The next morning, any airline that had a flight divert now has an aircraft out of position. The solution, of course, is to fly the diverted aircraft back from JFK across Queens County. On July 17th, 2013, a fairly large amount of aircraft did not make it to LGA before the curfew was put in place. The next morning saw at least seven flights from JFK back to LGA. The flights, which most likely none of which had passengers, are comically short. A Delta MD-88 took off from JFKs runway 31L, made a left turn, followed by a quick right turn to enter the LGA runway 22 approach. The total flight time was 15 minutes, from 8:10am to 8:25am.

JFK isn’t the only airport in the region to see diversions related to the curfew at LaGuardia. Airlines often choose to divert to an airport where they already have an operation if at all possible in situations such as this. These airports have the ground staff available to process the aircraft, the passengers onboard, and their luggage. It also simplifies the process of refueling the aircraft, as the airline will already have a contract with a fuel supplier. One airline that routinely diverts its LaGuardia-bound aircraft to an airport other than JFK is Spirit Airlines. While that carrier doesn’t fly to any other airports in the NYC Metro Area, they do fly to Atlantic City (ACY), so their diversions usually end up there. After landing, passengers typically have to endure an over two hour long bus ride the rest of the way to LaGuardia.

So what does 2014 have in store for LaGuardia’s curfew? Well for starters, it is currently scheduled to last until December 31st, two months beyond when it ended in 2013. We are also hearing that it may be more strictly enforced this summer, providing fewer exceptions for flights that are held up due to weather. This is due to a major runway construction project that is ongoing at LaGuardia. This project involves lengthening both of the runways on concrete decks over the water. The lengthened runways will accommodate FAA-mandated safety areas at the end of the runways.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on NYCAviation.com on July 18, 2013. It has been updated and republished with the latest information for 2014. Associate Editor Ben Granucci contributed to this piece.)



About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz





 
 

 

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  • Pat Sullivan

    It has to be fun as a pilot to fly these quick hops. Empty 757 10 miles across town.

  • leroyjabari

    Its funny that a plane flying still takes about the same time as jumping on the Van Wyck (no traffic of course).

  • tsnamm

    When you see the odd UA A320 at JFK thats the reason….an ORD or DEN flight got delayed en route and missed they missed the curfew cutoff…

  • Surlybonds

    In actuality it is not fun. If you happen to be the pilots diverting to JFK. Your car is in Queens. If your company is on the ball a ride is waiting for you to go back to JFK. More than likely you are waiting for a ride to LGA. I have arrived at 4 am in LGA after landing at 2 am.

    I have also flown JFK LGA. Worst gig you can be assigned to. 15 minutes of pay is about $30. When you make $20,000 a year a 15 minute flight is losing money. Fuel, wear and tear and time cost a heck of a lot mo than what you get paid.

  • FlushGotham

    Unfortunately – the promising discussions and posts on the net abound –

    IN REALITY HAS

    PROVEN TO BE THE OPPOSITE OF THE TRUTH – for the Summer of 2014.

    A PIPE DREAM …

    SEMI OFFICIAL AND PRECISE data on

    WWW flightsware.com

    just for the early morning of July 16th, 2014

    is an example of a disturbing trend

    where flights arrive MORE URGENTLY from 12:00 to almost 2am.

    CONSTRUCTION RELIEF?

    it seems construction has not tightened the curfew
    maybe BECOMEmore accommodating?

    the buildings in Flushing, many prewar and many made during Eisenhower years were made before 707s and at a arrival volume of just 12% of today’s traffic.

    not only do the residents hear flights arriving daily (boom) waking up at 6am many residents can nor sleep until the last arrival is done, this morning at 1:56 am.

    MOONSHINE MADE AT HOME IN FLUSHING MAY BE AT A ALL TIME HIGH…

    I fell asleep at 2:15 am and woke with the first arrival after 6am.

    this is not one of those weekends with added flights:

    Superbowl
    July 4th
    Thanksgiving

    etc…

    does

    Southwest
    Delta
    American
    UNITED
    Spirit
    American West
    Frontier

    ALL ARRIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT CHRONICALLY

    INDIRECTLY

    OFFER FREE SOUNDPROOFING

    AS IN WINDOWS

    DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY

    FROM LANDING FEES?

    WITH THIS START OF LONG TERM CONSTRUCTION HAVING AN OPPOSITE EFFECT

    AND

    TROUBLESOME LONG TERM
    WEATHER TRENDS

    SHOULD WE WARN

    FLUSHING RESIDENTS OF FLUSHING
    BEFORE REAL ESTATE TANKS

    OR LONG TERM HEALTH SUFFERS FRO INSOMNIA

    TO GET OUT OF DODGE?

    • This is a confusing comment, and I wonder if you even read the article itself.

      As the article explains, exceptions are made for various reasons, most often weather delays that push arrivals after midnight July 16th was specifically one of these days, where averages of at least two hours were seen on flights head to NYC due to thunderstorms. So the extension was quite understandable. Construction had nothing to do with it.

      The rest of your comments did not have complete sentences, so it is difficult to understand what you are trying to say.

      -Phil
      Founder

  • Cfindlay

    i understand tony soprano has a guy with his hand out to help make the time of shutdown decision