DOT opens the bidding for low-cost carrier slots in Newark

The DOT has given low-cost airlines two weeks to apply for 16 available daily departure and landing slots at capacity-constrained Newark Airport. 

In a Feb. 25 notice, the department confirmed that only low-cost and ultralow-cost carriers are eligible. The DOT is trying to increase competition at the United Airlines-dominated airport. 

The department also said that while it hopes to award the landing rights to just one airline, it will consider applications for fewer than all 16 slots if issues such a fleet size and staffing constraints would make it impractical for an airline to add 16 Newark frequencies. 

“It is critical for new entrants and carriers with a small market share to obtain a sufficient scale of operations to effectively compete,” reads the notice signed by Carol Petsonk, the DOT’s principal deputy assistant secretary for aviation and international Affairs.

“In view of these factors, it is the department’s preference and first option to reassign the timings in one tranche to a competitor that will utilize the full bundle of 16 daily runway timings to provide competition in a wider range of markets. The department, however, notes certain commenters’ arguments that some LCCs or ULCCs may not be able to absorb that many operations at once.”

The notice finalized a preliminary decision by the DOT in September 2021 to open up additional Newark landing slots. The operating authorizations, all of which would be for peak-hour operations, are among the 36 daily landing rights that Southwest gave up when it stopped serving Newark in 2019.

In 2019, United operated 69.8% of departures out of Newark, according to the DOT. Among low-cost and ultralow-cost carriers, JetBlue and Spirit are the airport’s largest operators, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 

The DOT decided to move forward with the additional slot allocations despite objections from United, the city of Newark and others, which argued that because current peak-time schedules at the airport are already at the FAA-defined maximum, allowing more operations would increase delays.

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