Slot changes at Newark Liberty opens the door to new flight options

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced capacity will be opened up at one of the busiest airports in America. This, along with a review of slots currently unused by United Airlines, could result in more opportunities for other carriers to serve the airport, allowing for further domestic and international flight option.

It has been confirmed that capacity at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the 15 busiest airports in America, will be opened up in time for the Winter 2016 scheduling. As of October 30, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will designate Newark Liberty as a Level 2 Airport, under the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Worldwide Slot Guidelines.

These guidelines, which are in place “to provide the global air transport community with a single set of standards for the management of airport slots at coordinated airports and planned operations at facilitated airports” have been updated, taking effect from August 1, 2015.

Level 2 airports are those where there is potential for congestion during some periods of the day, month or season, “which can be resolved by schedule adjustments mutually agreed between the airlines and facilitator.” At the minute, Newark Liberty is designated as Level 3 – slots at the airport are controlled and limited to 81 operations an hour.

FAA Administrator, Michael Huerta said: “The significant improvements in on-time performance and delays at Newark allowed us to make these changes. This change will improve access to some of the most in-demand airspace in the country and has the potential to provide more options for local consumers.”

On-time gate arrivals have increased by around 11 percent during May to August 2015 compared to the same period in 2007, according to official data, whereas on-gate departures improved by about three percent. Delays greater than 60 minutes are down by 37 percent for arrivals and 38 percent for departures.

“The significant improvements in on-time performance and delays at Newark allowed us to make these changes. This change will improve access to some of the most in-demand airspace in the country and has the potential to provide more options for local consumers.”

Michael Huerta
FAA Administrator

Opening up capacity could allow for much more competition at Newark Liberty, which is significantly dominated by United Airlines. The second largest airline in the country by capacity has 902 take-off and landing slots at the airport, whereas American in second place has just 70. These slot changes have the potential to bring airlines who did not previously operate in New York, reducing airfares in Newark for consumers. In the second quarter of 2015, the average fare from Newark was the highest in the country at $478.

Port Authority’s board chairman, John Degnan said: “We’re delighted at the Port Authority with this ruling by the FAA. We think it will engender more competition at Newark Airport, better services for our passengers and hopefully, through increase competition, lower prices for tickets.”

Slot allocations at Newark Liberty have been under discussion in recent months. In November 2015, the US Justice Department (DOJ) sued to stop United from taking over 24 slots at the airport. These slots were controlled by Delta Air Lines, and in return, Delta was to take over United’s slots at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport. The Justice Department asked a court to declare the Newark slots illegal, as United already had 73 percent of slots at the airport.

Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, Bill Baer said: “There are 35 million air passengers who fly into and out of Newark every year. And we know that air fares at Newark are among the highest in the country, while United’s service at Newark ranks among the worst.”

In the lawsuit filed by DOJ, it was believed that United failed to use as many as 82 slots at Newark daily. United defended this action saying it varied flight schedules seasonally and by day of the week to match passenger demand. President of the American Antitrust Institute, Diana Moss disagreed with this, claiming United “are holding these slots and flying much smaller aircraft on the slots to keep them.”

It has emerged this week that United has now abandoned the plan to buy these slots from Delta. The Justice Department’s lawsuit didn’t affect Delta’s acquisition of the Kennedy slots, which has already gone through.

After United’s merger with Continental Airlines and its takeover of the airline’s Newark hub operation, the combined airlines’ share of the departure capacity stood at 68.1 percent last year and will rise to 69.3 percent this year, based on published schedules.  The data from intelligence provider, OAG, shows that United will offer over 16 million seats from the airport this calendar year, the first time the 16 million milestone has been passed since Continental’s operations in 2007 and 2008.


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