Last updated: 03:34 PM ET, Tue November 10 2015

Does United Have a Slot Monopoly at Newark?

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | November 10, 2015

Does United Have a Slot Monopoly at Newark?

United Airlines controls 902 slots out of 1,233 available at Newark-Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, or roughly 73 percent.

The Department of Justice says that’s more than enough.

The DOJ today filed an antitrust lawsuit against United, blocking a proposed deal between the Chicago-based carrier and Delta Air Lines to swap slots at Newark and nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Under the agreement, Delta would have sold 24 of its slots at Newark to United in exchange for slots at JFK, which United is abandoning in favor of more flights out of Newark. A slot consists of one takeoff and one landing.

The feds even used the "M" word — monopoly — making it clear that by giving United more slots at Newark-Liberty it would have created even further disparity among the airlines who fly out of the airport and leave consumers vulnerable to pay the going rate without any competing alternative to United.

“A slot is essentially a license to compete at Newark. United already holds most of them, and as a result, competition at Newark is in critically short supply,” Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said in a statement. “United is already extracting a ‘Newark premium.’  Airfares at Newark are among the highest in the country while United’s service at Newark ranks among the worst. Allowing United to acquire even more slots at Newark would fortify United’s monopoly position, and weaken rivals’ ability to challenge that dominance, leaving consumers to pay the price.”

United not only controls the 73 percent of available slots, but no other airline has more than 70 slots at Newark. In fact, the DOJ said in its suit, United Airlines sometimes fails to use more slots (up to 82 per day) than some airlines even have.

And not only does the lawsuit seek to prevent United from acquiring the slots from Delta, it demands that United notify the DOJ of any attempts to gain additional slots at Newark for the next five years.

In a statement provided to USA Today, United said there were more than enough slots to go around among Newark, JFK and LaGuardia.

"With three major airports, the New York/Newark area is the most competitive air transportation market in the country," said Rahsaan Johnson, a United spokesperson. "We firmly believe this transaction benefits our customers and the region by enabling us to enhance service at our Newark hub and manage congestion at the airport. We will vigorously defend our ability to operate effectively, efficiently and competitively at Newark."


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