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Newark Airport Expands Flights and Cheaper Airfares

ROSTAS 1: It’s 6:30 in the morning at Newark Airport, one of New York City’s main travel hubs.


Terminal A… is basically empty. Terminal B… is full of employees, but not too many passengers.

So where are all the passengers?

AIRTRAIN: The next stop is Terminal C. Airlines serving Terminal C are United. United Express. United International Arrivals.

ROSTAS 2: Yep – Terminal C – the United Airlines terminal – is packed.

And there’s a good reason United’s terminal is so much busier than the other two.

Since 2008, the federal government has imposed what’s called a “slot” system on Newark Airport to cut down on delays – meaning only a certain number of flights could take off and land. Under the current system, United Airlines owns the vast majority — three quarters of the slots at Newark.

But that’s about to change. The FAA announced this past weekend that it’s getting rid of those slot controls. Why? Well despite the crowds you heard at Terminal C, delays at the airport are down over 30 percent since 2007 – the FAA says Newark doesn’t need them anymore.

So what does that mean for the passengers and airlines at Newark Airport?

Seth Kaplan, the editor of a travel industry blog called Airline Weekly, says no slot controls means more airlines can enter United’s turf – they can operate as many flights as the airport can handle, and with more competition …

KAPLAN 1: In the end it’s supply and demand economics – and if you have the same number of people who want to fly, but more airline seats out there, airfares would come down. And most other airlines aside from United would benefit.

ROSTAS 3: Carriers like Southwest and Jetblue have been pushing for more access to Newark for years. And they might just get it. But Kaplan says it won’t be a free-for-all. If you get rid of a traffic cop – and traffic gets bad – you put the cop back.

KAPLAN 2: So they’re trying to walk a line here, give consumers as much air service as they can, give airlines a chance to provide the service that they want, but – nobody wants delays of an unacceptable nature.

ROSTAS 4: Industry experts pointed out that United is still so well established at Newark that it can go ahead and add flights, too. But once those slot controls go away, customers looking for frequent flier miles or cheaper prices may go elsewhere.

Shayna Lawson is a travel consultant at Valerie Wilson Travel – and she says losing control of Newark could put a serious dent in United’s business.

LAWSON: For me and for anyone that travels – which we have a ton of corporate travelers, if they want to leave out of Newark, they know United. And they don’t care, they’re like yeah, put me on United – if they start to see like, oh, there’s Delta and AA, American Airlines, United is gonna (whistles).

ROSTAS 5: United Airlines didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Southwest says it’s carefully monitoring the situation at Newark, but hasn’t yet released its plans.

In a statement, the FAA said it’s making these changes at Newark to improve competition in the country’s most-in demand airspace.

Carriers will still need to find gates in the airport terminal, like any other non-slot controlled airport. The Port Authority, which owns all of the city’s airports, said it welcomes the removal of slot controls.

The changes come into effect in October, and depending on how things go, the FAA says it might get rid of slot controls at JFK as well.

Meaning travelers across the city may have a little more choice – and a little more cash – starting this fall.

Daniel Rostas, Columbia Radio News


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