JetBlue Airways Corp. said it will shift six year-around Florida flights from LaGuardia to Newark this fall, the first sign that the government’s decision to remove flight restrictions there is bringing more competition to an airport where Chicago-based United Airlines handles nearly 70 percent of the traffic and fares are among the nation’s highest.
The move by the New York City-based airline will bring additional daily roundtrips on popular routes already offered by JetBlue and by United at Newark. Two JetBlue daily roundtrips will be added between Newark Liberty International Airport and Fort Lauderdale, and one daily roundtrip will be added to routes serving each of these cities: Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers.
“The flight frequencies that we are adding were made possible by the FAA’s decision to go to Level 2 at Newark,” said Philip Stewart, a JetBlue spokesman, referring to the agency’s April 1 announcement that it would open the airport at the end of October to more flights and more competition. JetBlue said it shifted the Florida flights to Newark to make room for business shuttles between LaGuardia and Boston’s Logan International Airport, which has been a focus of the New York City-based carrier’s growth plans. JetBlue will go head-to-head with American Airlines and Delta on those flights.
“It should be good for competition,” East Rutherford travel agent Rick Ardis, said JetBlue’s plan to add Florida flights at Newark, which will bring its total to 30 a day. “Any additional competition is going to affect the prices,” he said.
In addition, Southwest Airlines, which has controlled 36 daily arrival and departure times at Newark since 2010, began flying to Las Vegas and Orlando this month from Newark. “We now have three carriers in the Orlando market: United, JetBlue and Southwest,” Ardis said. Southwest’s move is unrelated to the FAA decision.
Since 2008, when the Federal Aviation Administration labeled Newark a “Level 3 slot-controlled airport” the airport has been limited to 81 scheduled take-offs and landings per hour during peak travel times, in an attempt to reduce backups and delays. The designation will change Oct. 30 to a “Level 2 schedule facilitated airport,” with no per-hour flight cap.
The FAA, which did not respond Friday to a request for comment on JetBlue shift of Florida flights to Newark, had cited improved on-time performance at the airport Newark as a reason for the reclassification announced about a month ago.
At that time, the agency asked airlines to submit winter schedule plans, and said it will work with the airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to help coordinate the airlines’ flight schedules at Newark. Flights offered last winter get first dibs to again fly at the departure and arrival times they had flown before. One of the benefits of the reclassification will be “market access and new entry for carriers and increased competition,” the FAA said. Some of arrival and departure times that United controlled but did not use last year are expected to be up for grabs.
United, which did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment, was sued last year by the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, which sought to stop the airline from adding 24 time slots a day to the 902 it already controlled at Newark. United ultimately dropped the plan, which involved a swap with Delta Air Lines, and the suit was withdrawn.