For more than three decades, Westchester County Airport has imposed limits on the number of passengers that can pass through its terminal every half hour.
The limits were developed with a nod to safety and an eye toward being a good neighbor to the surrounding towns. Fewer passengers means less traffic and less noise, a paramount concern for an airport that still keeps close track of complaints lodged by nearby residents.
The total number of passengers allowed to pass through the terminal each half hour is 240. That includes departing and arriving passengers. That means the airport can handle four departures or landings every half hour for planes carrying a few more than 50 passengers.
But, in recent years, the major airlines have started to eliminate 50-plus seat planes from their fleets in favor of planes that carry between 70 and 120 passengers.
That’s left the county with a serious math problem. With four gates operating, four planes carrying 70-plus passengers would blow through the 240 limit.
Astorino wants change
So County Executive Rob Astorino wants to alter the passenger limits to give airlines some flexibility in their scheduling.
He has proposed doing away with the half-hourly limits and imposing a daily cap of 11,520, the half-hourly total calculated over the course of 24 hours.
That means more flights concentrated in the busiest times of the day, most likely mornings. Astorino says the move would mean fewer flights on state-of-the-art planes that are quieter and spew less pollution.
Even if the limits are approved by county lawmakers, the airport will continue its voluntary curfew between midnight and 6 a.m., so the 11,520 passengers will be spread over 18 hours. That translates to 640 passengers per hour, as opposed to the 480 per hour under the current limits.
From January to October 2015, the airport averaged 4,049 passengers per day, according to airport statistics. Over 18 hours, that comes out to roughly 225 passengers every half hour.
Limits eased during holidays
Passenger limits will continue to be lifted during 67 of the airport’s busiest days of the year. For instance, the proposed legislation would allow airlines to fly without limits around Christmas and New Year’s, Dec. 20-Jan. 5, and the three days before and after Memorial Day.
Every three months, a lottery will be held to give airlines an opportunity to bid on available slots.
Airlines that violate the passenger limit could face the loss of slots. And if an airline uses 85 percent or less of its allocated slots during a three-month span, it would have its total allotment reduced in future months.
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