American low-cost carrier Spirit Air has been awarded 16 highly-contested slots at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the three main airports serving New York City. The runway slots are highly valuable as they are at peak times. Spirit beat out rivals JetBlue and Alaska, who also applied for the slots, but received none.
Spirit Gets All 16 Slots
The decision to give the slots to Spirit was made by the US Transportation Department, who chose the budget airline because it would offer low-cost options for Newark passengers. The department believes that awarding the slots to Spirit will improve airport competition, lowering ticket prices for passengers.
“After reviewing the applications against the decisional criteria announced by the Department, the Department found that Spirit will best be able to provide competition with all 16 timings, consistent with the Department of Justice’s original competition remedy, and is most likely to provide the lowest fares to the most consumers,” The Department said in a statement released on 5 July.
The History of the Slots
The slots used to belong to Southwest Airlines, which also operates low-cost flights. The airline pulled out of Newark Airport in 2019 and consolidated all of its New York City operations to LaGuardia Airport, which Spirit also serves. After their departure, the Transportation Department has expressed a desire to give Southwest’s slots to another budget carrier, so it is no surprise that they awarded Spirit the slots, as JetBlue and Alaska both operate a full-service model.
The slots were not always destined to be reassigned. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had initially planned to retire the Southwest slots to reduce congestion at the airport. That was until they were sued by Spirit Airlines, which wanted to expand at Newark. The slots were later put up for reallocation following a ruling by the federal court.
The successful acquisition of new slots comes at a crucial time for Spirit, which is just days away from a shareholder’s vote that will decide whether they merge with Frontier or JetBlue. Whichever way the decision goes, it will have a significant impact on the shape of American aviation, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the merging of the legacy carriers.
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