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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Unless more slots are granted, United threatens to leave JFK

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Unless the FAA provides additional slot pairs at the congested airport, United Airlines indicated it will permanently leave New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) by the end of October.

According to a spokesman, United now operates just four daily flights from Newark to JFK, with two of those flights flying on transcontinental routes to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) (EWR).

After resuming operations in February 2021, the airline was able to temporarily acquire some more slots from other carriers but has subsequently returned those spaces as demand has skyrocketed back to pre-crisis levels.

Since beginning JFK service, the Chicago-based airline has “repeatedly requested” additional permanent slots from the FAA and has also pursued commercial agreements to purchase slots from other airlines. However, none of these efforts have been successful, CEO Scott Kirby wrote in a letter to staff on September 6th.

According to a separate letter Kirby addressed last week to Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, the airline is currently making a last-ditch effort to obtain a temporary multi-season slot allotment from the FAA.

Kirby stated that United is “prepared to increase” its service at JFK if that request is approved. But he cautioned that operations at the airport would need to be suspended by the end of October if the carrier was unable to secure further allocations for several seasons.

“That would obviously be a tough and frustrating step to take and one that we have worked really hard to prevent,” Kirby wrote.

Compared to EWR’s three runways, JFK has four total runways—two pairs of parallel runways—with the flexibility to switch between two arrival and two departure runways to handle demand spikes. Despite having an additional runway, JFK’s capacity has remained limited since 2008 to 81 runway movements per hour, just two more than EWR’s top rate of 79, according to Kirby.

The FAA said in a statement that it “continually looks for ways to increase the efficiency of airspace in busy metropolitan areas safely,” and that any additional slot pairs at JFK must be “distributed fairly.”

The agency also said it must “consider airspace capacity and runway capacity to assess how changes would affect flights at nearby airports” when making decisions about JFK’s capacity caps.

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