Bay air travel may slow in wake of construction 

Construction on a runway in New York City has airlines in the Bay Area bracing for possible delays.

John F. Kennedy International Airport is preparing to close its largest runway in March for a four-month renovation. The Federal Aviation Administration is forecasting delays during the 120-day renovation.

The runway to be closed is 14,572-feet long and handles about one-third of the airport’s flights, including more than half of all departures, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The airport handled about 440,000 flights in 2008.

Short flights on the East Coast will be more heavily affected than coast-to-coast flights, according to managers at San Francisco International Airport. Airlines across the nation, however, are preparing for the traffic.

One airline that flies from San Francisco International Airport, JetBlue, already plans to extend its winter schedule throughout the spring and part of the summer to help avoid congestion during construction, spokesman Mateo Lleras said.

“We expect there will be some impact in the form of delays, but we are partnering with the Port and other airlines to ensure that impact is minimized,” Lleras said.

United Airlines will not cut flights between SFO and JFK, according to a spokeswoman.

Virgin America, which is headquartered out of SFO, is also maintaining its relatively small foothold on JFK. The airline was told it cannot expand at JFK, spokeswoman Abby Lunardini said.

“We won’t need to reduce our schedules,” Lunardini wrote. “However, we (like other carriers) are building extra time into our scheduling for JFK-bound flights.”

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