FAA Gives OK to Increase Air Traffic at Newark Liberty Airport

By Briana Vannozzi

If you’ve traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport, odds are pretty high you flew with United Airlines. That’s because the major air carrier controls roughly 75 percent of all the slots at the airport. In a move to increase competition, the FAA is easing caps on takeoff and landings.

“For business and for the passengers in the area it’s a great move,” said Alan Yurman, former National Transportation Safety Board investigator.

The FAA says it placed temporary limits on operations at Newark in 2008 to mitigate congestion and delays. The restrictions have meant just 81 takeoffs and landings an hour.

“The significant improvements in on-time performance and delays at Newark allowed us to make these changes,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement to the media.

FAA data shows average arrival and departure delays are down by about 33 percent. Delays greater than 60 minutes are down by 37 percent.

“I think that would definitely make a difference. I think if you have more availability to fly in and out,” said traveler Alexandra Hernandez.

“I have sort of a restrictive time slot so it didn’t seem like there were a lot of different options for me trying to get into Newark,” said Florida resident Burnham Lewis.

Lewis welcomes the change — he knows a thing or two about traveling.

“West Palm Beach to Newark, to New York, to Massachusetts, flying out of Logan later in the week and back home,” he said.

“For people in New York City that use LaGuardia they have no other outlet. Going out to Kennedy isn’t always feasible. It will increase business for the Jersey side, but will also increase air and ground traffic,” Yurman said.

The Port Authority — which controls the airport and has been a vocal critic of the slot restrictions — applauded the decision.

“This action will help travelers by increasing competition and choices at Newark Liberty by allowing more flights by different airlines, thereby helping to reduce airfares,” a Port Authority spokesperson said.

In theory, the open slots could go to new budget airlines or existing carriers. United will be forced to run more flights and better manage slots. An issue that’s being argued in court. The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit claiming the airline sits on as many as 82 slots some days, keeping them unused and out of rivals’ hands. The airline strongly denies the allegations.

The value of these slots will partly depend on which times of day made available and just how many are reallocated to other airlines. The changes go into effect Oct. 30.