Newark airport is no longer slot controlled. The only U.S. airports where an airline is required to have takeoff and landing slots to operate are New York JFK, New York LaGuardia, and Washington’s National airport. Airlines still need to secure gates and ticket counter space, of course.
New York Mayor LaGuardia once refused to get off a plane in Newark because his ticket said “New York.” That stunt was part of gaining backing for a New York airport, but emphasized that to many New Yorkers – despite what estimated time to the airport may say on the top of a taxi cab – Newark isn’t New York.
The Newark airport is now in the same category as Chicago O’Hare, LAX, and San Francisco with schedule facilitation. It’s no longer slot controlled. Yet the FAA is still going to hand out 16 Newark slots to a low cost carrier. Say what?
- When United and Continental merged, the federal government required them to give up 36 slots at Newark to prevent too much concentration.
- Southwest Airlines acquired the slots, but they decided to leave the airport before the start of the pandemic.
- The FAA wanted to retire the slots. Spirit Airlines objected, asking for 16 of the slots. A U.S. appeals court agreed that the slots shouldn’t be retired.
Spirit Airlines and others can operate from Newark without the slots, but Spirit wants the slots in case the airport because restricted again because incumbent slot holders will have priority.
United argues that even though they operate 65% of flights out of Newark, it’s JetBlue that’s causing airport congestion because JetBlue has increased its (far more limited) flying.
United would have benefited from retiring slots both because it could have meant less congestion at Newark (good for their operational reliability) and because it could have meant less competition in the future (and therefore higher fares).
Meanwhile the FAA is going to extend its waiver on ‘use it or lose it’ rules for slots that’s been in place during the pandemic, which allows airlines to keep a big subsidy – a property right from the government that allows them to fly in and out of the most desirable airports, to the exclusion of competitors without actually using the slots.
The FAA largely follows IATA guidelines on slot allocation. They’ve adopted the airline world trade association’s recommendations, which are designed to benefit existing airlines. Slots should instead be auctioned off for use over a limited number of years, which is better for the taxpayer (which generally owns the airports and provides air traffic control) and better for competition.