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The federal government is currently on a roll when it comes to defending consumers. Last week, the DOT stepped in with a recent American Airlines mistake fare, forcing the carrier to offer discounted tickets to customers who put a cheap Beijing business-class fare on hold. Today, it’s the Department of Justice’s turn to intervene with a potentially consumer-unfriendly move in which United was due to acquire Delta’s Newark slots following its recent departure from JFK.

What’s especially refreshing about this DOJ move is the plain language used in its news release:

There are 35 million air passengers who fly into and out of Newark every year. And we know that airfares at Newark are among the highest in the country while United’s service at Newark ranks among the worst. This transaction will reduce competition by removing from the hands of a competitor – in this case Delta – a scarce resource that it needs to compete with United at Newark.

United is investing in improved gate areas at Newark.
United is investing in improved gate areas at Newark.

We also get some interesting insight into operations at EWR, courtesy of DOJ:

  • 35 million passengers fly through Newark each year.
  • There are 1,233 slots at Newark, and United holds 902 of them.
  • United has no competition to 139 of the 189 destinations it serves from Newark.
  • United’s slots would allow for 451 daily round-trip flights, but it only operates 386.

While the Delta deal isn’t completely without hope, it’s certainly on hold following this DOJ lawsuit. Ultimately, with United not currently utilizing all of its available slots, there shouldn’t be any negative impact to passengers if the acquisition falls through.

Do you think United should be allowed to acquire Delta’s Newark slots?

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