As expected with the dropping of slot controls at Newark airport the new route announcements are rolling in. Alaska Airlines is the latest to make a move, announcing four new transcon flights to roll out in the coming year. Relatively low fuel costs, decent fare levels and stronger competition on the west coast are part of the push for the carrier to expand on more transcon routes. Expanding in the New York City area has been a key focus for the carrier for some time now but it was limited in opportunities based on slot controls at both Newark and JFK.
First to launch will be service from Portland, Oregon on 10 November 2016. It will be followed on the 21st by service from San Diego. These will both be daytime flights in both directions, a sleep-friendly move for passengers and one which suggests that the new routes are not just about fleet utilization. Both flights will also compete with United Airlines‘ operations. From Portland United runs a redeye flight while from San Diego the United schedule is up to 3x daily with morning, noon and night flights depending on the day of week and season.
In March 2017 San Jose, California will get nonstop service to Newark for the first time, also as a daytime flight. This flight is timed to arrive at the same time as the Portland trip meaning Alaska Airlines will need to secure access to a second gate, one of the limited resources affecting growth at Newark. And, finally, in May 2017 a redeye flight from Seattle will be added to the schedule.
The Alaska Airlines additions come on top of announcements from JetBlue (Barbados, Saturday-only, seasonal) and Allegiant (Knoxville, Ashville, Cincinnati & Savannah) made in recent weeks. Ethiopian Airlines just increased its service from Addis Ababa (via Lome) to 4x weekly. Other airlines have also expressed interest in adding flights at Newark, though access to gates is challenging. As part of the removal of the slot controls United took a one-time ~$400mm charge to write off the value of its slot portfolio; just numbers on paper, but still significant.
And, of course, there are the concerns that opening the airport up to access in this manner will see a rush to add flights, potentially returning the operations to the delay-prone mess which caused the slot controls to be implemented in the first place. But, in the mean time, some passengers are likely to benefit from increased competition and options on some routes.
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