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.