Sunday, May 18, 2008

Those Newark Slots

More competition in air service is necessary and inevitable, but I have to confess to a selfish twinge of “not in my backyard” sentiment in the Transportation Department’s new proposal to auction off slots at Newark International Airport. (An airport, by the way, that had a perfectly fine name until some nimrod(s) a few years renamed it Newark Liberty International Airport, evidently unaware that liberty is exactly what you give up when you set foot in an airport.)

And since Newark is my home airport, I sure would welcome seeing JetBlue or Southwest operate there. Right now, Southwest isn’t even a factor in the New York area, and JetBlue operates out of Kennedy, which is torture to reach from New Jersey and which I avoid unless I have no other choice.

Furthermore, Continental Airlines, which has a bastion hub at Newark, is by my and most other travelers’ estimation the best-run of the major airlines. If the rest of the airlines ran as well as Continental does, at least out of Newark, we’d all be much happier travelers.

So, as I said, I sure would welcome Southwest or JetBlue at Newark, and lately I’m growing more fond of AirTran, which in fact does fly from Newark, though out of the dreadful Terminal B.

But let’s give Continental its due. Here’s their response from Friday to the DOT proposal:


“HOUSTON, May 16 -- Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL - News) today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) announcement to implement slot auctions at John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty Airports:

The DOT proposal to auction off 10 percent, or approximately 95, of the slots at Newark over the next five years is an unlawful taking of property that Continental will vigorously oppose. Moreover, auctioning slots will do nothing to ease congestion, but will raise the cost of air travel to consumers and act as an effective increase in taxes on an industry already known to bear an unreasonably high tax rate. Additionally, the proposal will result in reduced service to various communities and will create unnecessary market uncertainty at a time when the skyrocketing cost of oil and jet fuel has already created an extremely challenging environment for the industry.

The auction proposal does not address the real need to modernize an outdated and inadequate air traffic control system to increase capacity and meet passenger demand.”

[Update: On the other hand, let's not get carried away here. Here's a rocket just in from my friend Joe Brancatelli:

"I'd like to see Continental's receipt for this property that is being unlawfully taken ... Last time I checked, the airspace belongs to the U.S. taxpayer, and Continental never paid a dime to buy a slot at EWR..."

Ok, then.


---War being the ultimate form of business travel and all, I’m just sayin’: Imagine if Franklin D. Roosevelt (or more to the point, Thomas E. Dewey) said during the election campaign in 1944 – when the U.S. had been involved in World War Two for less than three years -- that he supposed we’d be able to end the war and get the troops home by 1951 or so. Didn’t John McCain just get away with saying he thought we’d be able to declare victory in Iraq and bring the troops home -- by 2013?


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