Nearly everyone who has traveled by air through New York during the last few years has sat idly in an airplane waiting impatiently to take off. These delays are not the inescapable result of too many people wanting to fly through New York. The fault lies with airlines’ scheduling too many flights during peak times.
The problem arises from the failure of airports to properly price access to runways. Instead of having to pay an economically meaningful amount of money to use a congested airport during its busiest hours, companies pay an arbitrary fee based on how much their airplane weighs.
A new study from the Reason Foundation, the organization that publishes this magazine, proposes a solution: market-based congestion pricing. The study argues that prices for runway use that vary by time period, rather than aircraft size or weight, would significantly reduce delays, spread out peak demand to make better use of airport capacity, and encourage the use of larger planes on some routes. These changes, the study says, would reduce congestion and delays while allowing the same number of passengers to fly to their destinations every day.