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Discount Airlines Urge the DOT to Give Them Access to NYC Airports

Discount carriers are urging federal agencies to modify slot management and open competition at New York’s three major airports.

Five discount airlines filed a letter asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) to modify their “slot management” policies at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

Virgin America, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines sent the letter Tuesday asking both the FAA and DOT to advance with proposals that would make it easier for smaller carriers to obtain takeoff and landing locations, or “slots,” at the three New York City-area airports.

“Today, because the number of permitted takeoffs and landings at the NYC Airports – each of which requires an assigned slot – is tightly regulated and dominated by three large incumbent airlines, consumer airfares at the NYC Airports consistently feature among the highest for major U.S. airports,” the five airlines said in their joint letter, obtained by FlyerTalk. “Indeed for many travelers, including tourists, families and groups, and small businesses, traveling to or from New York is a financial hardship or even prohibitively expensive.”

The letter said the undersigned carriers are frustrated by their attempts to obtain slots at commercially viable times of the day to add needed, new service and competition at the NYC airports.

The five airlines assert that if the FAA/DOT cement the status quo by making permanent the current FAA temporary orders, the effect would limit operations at LGA, JFK and EWR. The letter noted if the orders became permanent, it would lock in large, incumbent airlines’ majority holdings of slots – most of which they received free from the U.S. government.

“Not surprisingly, the large incumbent slot holders strenuously oppose the FAA/DOT proposal and insist there are no competition or access problems at the NYC Airports, despite numerous government and private studies to the contrary,” the letter said. “The incumbents’ defense of the status quo predictably serves their commercial interests at the expense of competition and consumers.”

The five airlines noted that the incumbent carriers under utilize their assigned slots, and, in some cases, do not use the slots at all.

“The large incumbents also significantly under utilize slots by operating inflated schedules in dense markets using small aircraft,” the letter said. “This increases congestion while serving fewer passengers and results in high airfares.”

Virgin America Chief Executive David Cush told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday that the push to change the current practices are aimed at increasing competition in the NYC region – the nation’s largest air-travel market – which is dominated by big-name carriers.

“We have no mechanism to expand in the New York airports because the slots are controlled by the Big Three” and JetBlue, Cush told the Journal. “There is no mechanism for us to get slots.” Cush said new service and competition will create options for flyers looking for lower fares. The majority of the slots at JFK, LGA and EWR are currently controlled by American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Representatives at the DOT and Virgin America were not immediately available for comment.

Read the full letter here.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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UncleDude November 6, 2015

JetBlue was a Small Discount Airline and never seems to have problems at NYC Airport since its inception.