American Airlines Added A New Route From New York, But They’re Only Allowed To Fly On Saturdays

American and JetBlue announced several new routes and codesharing to move forward with their ‘Northeastern alliance’ covering New York and Boston.

One of the routes, though, is curious because of a legal quirk. American’s press release on new routes trumpeted new summer seasonal service from New York LaGuardia to Rapid City, South Dakota from June 5 through September 4.

Though the release didn’t say this, by law they’ll only be permitted to operate this flight on Saturdays. In other words, there will only 14 roundtrips flown on the route this year.

That’s because of New York LaGuardia’s perimeter rule (which in some ways isn’t as strict as a similar rule in place at Washington’s National airport).

  • Flights out of New York LaGuardia can be no longer than 1500 miles (The LaGuardia perimeter was set at 2000 miles in the 1950s, but reduced to 1500 miles in 1984.)

  • Except for flights to Denver

  • And except on Saturdays

United would seem to have a sweet carveout, with non-stop flights beyond the perimeter from New York LaGuardia to its Denver hub. Somewhat surprisingly, New York LaGuardia – Denver isn’t a strong route for United, based on data from Cirium Diio. This is likely because of low cost competition from Frontier on the route.

The other carveout is Saturday service. New York LaGuardia – Rapid City, South Dakota is 1504 miles so just beyond the allowable perimeter.

Saturday service is usually what airlines do for leisure routes when they have excess gates and airports, due to a lull in demand. In this case American is flying a route on Saturdays over the summer that they cannot legally fly on any other day because it’s over 1500 miles and therefore prohibited Sunday through Friday..

There was a move to lift the perimeter rule five years ago after Delta agreed to a huge financial investment in upgrading their terminal at the airport but it hasn’t happened yet. Delta, with the largest presence at LaGuardia, would benefit most. They acquired much of the old US Airways operation there from in exchange for slots at Washington national and cash.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The time savings for LGA which why most pay up to fly there is only noticeable on shorter >2 hour flights, so when flying to DEN your anyway killing a significant chunk of your day doesn’t make much of a difference to trek to EWR. Imho why it’s not so successful for UA

  2. United is just not as strong at LGA as they are from EWR and LGA is much more competitive with LGA-DEN service on DL, F9 and WN in addition to others which come and go. F9 isn’t flying LGA-DEN this month.

    No other airline has maintained LGA Saturday only outside of the perimeter routes because they are guaranteed leisure-only. RAP-LGA might pick up some tourists for this summer when airplanes are otherwise sitting around but it won’t be viable on a long-term basis when the government isn’t subsidizing the airline industry

  3. Imagine the bedlam that would result if airlines planned routes based upon consumer demand! Thank goodness we have central planners in Washington D.C. who make sure airlines can’t give consumers what they want. Gosplan lives!

  4. As Bill Maher would say, this should just be one “Dakota” state w/2 Senators, still would only make them the 40th most populated state

  5. @UA-NYC – you could also combine the states that were once part of the Dakota Territory (Dakota^2, Montana and Wyoming) and still it would be only the 30th most populated state.

    Why would AA use a Saturday slot for this route? Why not Austin or Bozeman?

  6. Why on Earth fly to a place like Rapid City? If this was a Sturgis thing, they wouldn’t need that many flights and the Sturgis guys don’t like to ride umm – passenger. I doubt airlines will fly a Harley out for any kind of reasonable price anyway. Surely, American could have advertised a Saturday flight to somewhere else that would have filled up easily. Austin anyone?

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