The Government Wants All Airlines Except American And JetBlue To Reduce New York Flying This Summer

The FAA’s Air Traffic Organization is severely understaffed with controllers. New York TRACON is less than 60% staffed with fully-trained controllers. And the government is asking airlines to reduce their summer schedules out of New York airports.

To do this the government is relaxing rules on use of takeoff and landing slots at New York JFK, LaGuardia and Washington National. Normally airlines have to ‘use ’em or lose ’em’ at an 80% level. The government has granted an effective property right to incumbent airlines to fly in and out of congested airports. These were given for free, and keep out competitors. And all they normally ask in return for this subsidy is that they actually fly the flights.

While all airlines are shaking their heads yes and complimenting the FAA on their foresight, they can’t all cut flights equally.

  • American Airlines and JetBlue entered into an agreement with the government to get their Northeast Alliance approved

  • It required them to increase capacity in New York, or lose slots.

  • The government is currently suing to stop the Northeast Alliance, despite approving it.

  • And if American and JetBlue take up the government on its offer to reduce New York flying, they.. run afoul of their agreement. If they take advantage of the slot waiver and reduce capacity in New York, they lose slots.

Already larger planes are replacing smaller ones in the New York market across American and JetBlue in order to grow capacity (since they’re slot-restricted, they can’t simply grow flights). They can upgauge somewhat more. But contributing to the government’s requested reduction in flight service isn’t something they can do without running afoul of the government’s requested increase in flight service.

We’re still waiting for a court ruling in the federal government’s anti-trust suit against the American Airlines-JetBlue alliance, which lets the numbers three and four airlines in New York compete against United and Delta.

However the DOJ has already at a minimum undermined the rule of law – the federal government approved the deal, there were no new facts, and then they sued to stop it. The only difference was the Administration – who was in charge. Relying on the whims or vagaries of who is in office for what businesses or citizens are permitted to do is precisely what our legal order is designed to prevent.

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 FAA’s Air Traffic Organization is severely understaffed with controllers. New York TRACON is less than 60% staffed with fully-trained controllers. And the government is asking airlines to reduce their summer schedules out of New York airports.”

    As a very ordinary traveler who likes to get to the East coast annually to visit family, all this means is higher fares…UGH!!!

  2. “However the DOJ has already at a minimum undermined the rule of law”

    The DOJ has been doing that quite a bit under this administration.

  3. “The government is currently suing to stop the Northeast Alliance, despite approving it.” lol…these stories write themelves.

  4. I’ve been affected by this on TWO flights into JFK (June and August) where I am connecting from DL to KE (Term 4 to Term 1). I originally booked it with a 4 hour connection (to be safe). DL canceled that flight (and my good seats) and gave me a choice of a 1.5 hour connection or a 6.5 hour connection. I had to choose the 6.5 hour connection and pray that I can convince the SkyClub (or Centurion Club) people that I am connecting even though it is on 2 separate record locators (first one award ticket to JFK, connecting to a revenue ticket in Biz to BKK). It sucks!

  5. @Don In February, I flew MCO-JFK on DL and had a six hour layover before my flight JFK-MAD on IB. Centurion Club had no issue letting me in after looking at both boarding passes.

  6. I commute between IAD and LGA. United has reduced the number of flights from 9 to 6 (including eliminating both my “regular” flights and raised prices by 35%. This is your dysfunctional government hard at work. Thanks Brandon and Mayor Pete!

  7. The biggest problem with our country right now, which is saying a lot, is that we’re increasingly allowing the president to rule by decree like a temporary, absolutist monarch. Then the other side gets control and does the same thing.

    Congress just complains or cheers the decrees depending on the letters next to everyone’s names.

    Law is ceasing to be a concrete reality and is becoming more and more at the whims of whoever is in the White House.

  8. Is there even one beurocratic department in the whole government operating for the people?

  9. Nothing says freedom more than mandates, less choices and higher prices! Let go Brandon and but.face pete and diversify those airspaces and slots as bsing is the best this current government is good at…oh and throw in a dress or two while you are at it

  10. Well morons,

    This issue arose during the reign of The Orange Draft-dodging shitstain coward (and rapist). The FAA did not train enough controllers.

    And during COVID, some moron thought they could train controllers via Zoom.

    It is not Biden’s fault, but you morons cannot conduct an impartial analysis of anything.

  11. Being a Capt running some flights out of LaGuardia for united system, we literally had 10 people on a flight and one flight had 27 yeah it’s time for united to cut flights.

  12. Sorry, Gary, but where is the evidence that the DOJ will hold it against AA or B6 if they accept slot waivers?
    Your conjectures don’t count; we want to see evidence of the DOJ’s actions.

    The FAA has already asked for and AA and B6 have reduced their schedules.

    Cranky covered this very topic today in a very informative article.

    also, the DOT approved the NEA and the DOJ is challenging it; you should know by now that there is no such thing as “the government” but rather thousands of little fiefdoms. The DOJ has control over all domestic airline consolidation; the NEA is a case in part because the DOJ wants to make sure its authority is not reduced by DOT actions.

  13. @Tim Dunn – “where is the evidence that the DOJ will hold it against AA or B6 if they accept slot waivers?”

    1) it’s in the NEA agreement with DOT – not that the DOJ ‘holds it against them’ – but that they relinquish additional slots.

    2) here’s AA CFO Devon May during the earnings call,

    “Vasu mentioned our ability to take advantage of this is limited to some extent by NEA. I would just say, as a part of the NEA, we committed to capacity targets for New York airports. And we expect to fulfill those commitments.”

  14. Gary,
    Cranky used schedules data which shows that AA and B6 are cutting their schedules by a greater percentage and more seats than competitors.
    Perhaps the DOJ will come after them but they certainly haven’t hesitated to cut schedules for the periods that CF checked

  15. The FAA requirement that new controllers must be 30 years old or younger to begin training wipes out many who would be interested in the career.

  16. Yea, AA and B6 might have wanted to run their NEA proposal by the anti trust division of the DOJ and not just rely on the DOT giving a wink and and nod to the idea.

  17. First, @K Helldoge…well said!

    IMO, domestic codeshares should not be allowed. If carriers want to operate as 1 carrier, they should merge. But then of course, the DOJ would have to allow another mega-merger, AA/B6…which is not likely since they don’t even want B6/NK. The DOJ allowed UA/CO, DL/NW, AA/US, but not B6/NK. That is strange.

  18. Greg b,
    the DOJ doesn’t like B6/NK because that merger proposal would eliminate a lower cost competitor.
    None of the mergers you listed involved a carrier going “down” in the carrier ranking types in order to merge. All of the legacy carriers merged with other legacy carriers.
    B6 is a low cost carrier and is proposing to merge with an ultra low cost carrier which will automatically mean higher fares and fewer seats on the same number of aircraft since B6 configures its aircraft “more generously” than NK.

    and anyone that doesn’t realize that the FAA is being guided to reduce airport and airspace capacity as a green energy initiative/anti-fossil fuel narrative is naive.

  19. Yet another example of the government getting involved in how ordinary citizens live their lives. Here is an idea train more air traffic controllers and hire more. This not going to end with it affecting three airports once the government gets their way. Soon they will be dictating who can fly and who can’t.

  20. K Helldoge, the only moron is you and your absurd Comment, glad to know you kiss the ring of a CORRUPT, CRACKHEAD FAMILY who has received BRIBES from China, Russia and Ukraine. Leave it to a peon and a keyboard warrior to spew hateful and biased rhetoric! I didn’t think they allowed ignorant, mentally deficient and low IQ wannabes to post like this, thank your mommy for help writing it, you’ll be a loser until the end, do yourself a favor and change the channel you spewing garbage shows just how ill informed you really are, go back to watching cartoons

  21. I did not expect MAGA folk comments to this extent – nor the poor political analysis in the article. Wow.

  22. Is the Tim Dunn commenting above the same Tim Dunn who is a Delta hack and spams the comments section of blogs and news sites across the web exalting Virginia Avenue and disparaging any entities which dare try to compete with Delta’s oligopoly?

  23. mind,
    this is the Tim Dunn that notes that Delta is the largest slot holder in the country but is still wanting to change slot rules to allow better consumer choice and the potential for everyone to use their slots more efficiently.
    That not only is not protecting an oligopoly but sounds like putting consumers and federal assets ahead of self interests.
    If Delta was interested in protecting its position, it wouldn’t be advocating for change.

  24. Barry Fowler,
    ” Is there even one bureaucratic department in the whole government operating for the people?”.

    The United States Coast Guard.

  25. Just 60 miles north of NYC is Stewart Airport, woefully underused. Shift some traffic there.

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