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U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Order to Enhance Competition and Affordable Flight Options for Travelers at Newark-Liberty International Airport

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Action allows Spirit Airlines to continue providing low-cost service in the Newark market 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today reassigned, with conditions, 16 peak-hour runway timings, previously operated by Southwest Airlines, at Newark-Liberty International Airport to Spirit Airlines. Today’s action secures low-cost service options for Newark customers and improves competition in the Newark market, which was affected when Southwest Airlines discontinued service there. 

Today’s decision provides certainty to carriers that have been operating at Newark using temporary, ad hoc timings made available while other carriers reduced service during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Given the Department’s concern over the recent airline cancellations, delays, challenges with customer service and other operational disruptions that have hurt travelers, the Department is requiring Spirit, as a condition of accepting the timings, to report additional data on disruptions facing their airline customers and its ability to provide them with accommodations. These reporting requirements will enable the Department to monitor Spirit’s ability to deliver on its customer commitment and permit the Department to better quantify the financial impact of operational disruptions on travelers.  

As Newark is an IATA Level 2 “schedule facilitated” airport, the Department expects all operators there to continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure scheduled operations do not exceed the airport’s targeted scheduling limits.  

The 16 timings reassigned today were originally operated by Southwest Airlines in 2010 when it acquired them as part of a Department of Justice competition remedy to the United-Continental merger.  The Department received applications from Spirit and JetBlue Airways for all 16 timings, and from Alaska Airlines for four of the timings. 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.