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.