Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced Monday that the government will lower the cap on take-offs and landings at LaGuardia from 75 to 71 per hour.
LaGuardia ranks last among the 32 major U.S. airports in on-time arrival performance. The outgoing Bush administration had sought to auction off some flight slots at New York City airports as an experimental effort to reduce delays nationwide, but a judge halted the plan.
In announcing the change, Peters called LaGuardia's delays "the worst of the worst."
The new hourly cap — expected to be a voluntary measure with the airlines — is a last-ditch attempt by the Bush administration to combat cascading national flight delays.
Federal authorities are focused on the three New York City-area airports because roughly two-thirds of flight delays around the country are caused by backups at those airports.
Transportation Department lawyer D.J. Gribbin said it is unfortunate that airlines and airports have fought the government's attempt to reduce backups by auctioning flight slots. The administration argues that the novel approach would ease congestion by forcing airlines to use their space more efficiently. But with a judge blocking the auction plan, Gribbin said the agency must still act.
"Gridlock in D.C. should not result in gridlock over the skies of New York," Gribbin said. "We can still take the first step toward restoring reliable air service to LaGuardia."