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Smaller airlines demand air (and ground) space

Laguardia taxiway, lined up for take-off: Is there room for more?     Photo: Port Authority of NY&NJ


A coalition of smaller airlines is stepping up pressure on the Department of Transportation to open up some landing and take-off 'slots' for them at New York's crowded airports, dominated by the 'Big 3' legacy carriers.


Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit and Virgin America call themselves "new entrants" in the business and the area, and are demanding that DOT break the "vise grip" the bigger carriers have at JFK, Laguardia and Newark. All three of the airports are capacity-controlled and have no free slots.


The coalition members have less than 2% of the slots. American, Delta and United occupy 91% at Newark, 88% at Laguardia and 63% at JFK. JFK is a special case; the smaller proportion there is due mainly to a plethora of foreign airlines based there. American and Delta are strong presences there; United pulled out of JFK in favor of Newark earlier this year.


The airlines complain that slots almost only ever change hands in mergers or in swaps among the majors (earlier this year, Delta swapped its Newark slots for United's JFK allotment). They want a shot at any slots being transferred, especially any transaction involving more than eight slots, and they want DOT to take away any slot not being used 80% of the time.


They also complain that the majors use smaller planes in the NY area in order to have more flights and hold onto the slots; the majors generally argue that more and smaller gives passengers more choice. The three legacy airlines plus Southwest carry about 80% of all air traffic in the U.S.


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