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FAA Changes Could Mean More Options, Cheaper Flights at Newark

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Airport slot restrictions are used to control the flow of flights in and out of certain airports to ensure there aren’t too many departing or arriving at the same time. These restrictions only happen at high-capacity airports like JFK and LaGuardia (LGA) in New York and Reagan National (DCA) in Washington, D.C. The FAA distributes slots to airlines in an effort to increase competition among carriers — good news for consumers since more competition usually means cheaper fares.

Now, however, the FAA is easing slot restrictions at one airport that was once previously on the list — Newark (EWR). For the first time since 2008, the FAA is opening the door to additional options for travelers, including low-cost carriers. In part, a press release issued by the FAA reads:

Beginning on October 30, 2016, the FAA will designate EWR as a Level 2, schedule-facilitated airport under the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Worldwide Slot Guidelines. This will allow more efficient use of the airport terminal and runway capacity. Newark is currently designated as a Level 3, slot-controlled airport, which means that it is limited to 81 operations per hour.

United Newark Featured
United Airlines currently has a firm hold on space at Newark.

According to FAA statistics, flight metrics at Newark have improved exponentially. Comparing summer 2007 and summer 2015, on-time gate arrivals increased by about 11%. On-time gate departures improved by approximately 3% during the same time period. In addition, mean arrival and departure delays are down by about 33%, and delays of more than 60 minutes are down by 37% for arrivals and 38% by departures. The release continues:

Starting this month, the FAA is inviting schedule submissions from carriers for the winter 2016 season. Airlines will separately need to obtain terminal spaces, gates and other facility access from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the EWR airport operator. The FAA will work closely with the Port Authority and airlines to help facilitate synchronization of airport facility access and runway times for proposed schedules.

The FAA expects to see numerous benefits as a result of this change at EWR, including the following:

  • More efficient use of existing airport terminal and runway capacity
  • Increased access to EWR and the New York City area markets
  • Market access and new entry for carriers and increased competition
  • Allows consideration of retiming existing flights to improve service offerings or to meet airlines’ operational or marketing needs
  • Creates potential for retiming some flights out of the late night and early morning hours, thus reducing noise during these times
  • More runway capacity available to carriers in cases previously denied under the current Level 3 slot controls.

Depending on how United Airlines, which dominates Newark, handles the situation, this could be a bad thing — since United currently handles a majority of air and facility space at Newark, and additional slots would give other carriers the opportunity to come in and increase competition at the airport — or a good thing if it chooses to shift capacity from other airports in an effort to reaffirm its hold on Newark.

It’s hard to say for certain what will happen with the new slots at Newark. With an opening for increased competition, something that has been hard to achieve at the airport in the past, there’s a good chance that consumers will come out on top with lower fares and more options to choose from.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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