Biden’s grounding sky-high fares at Newark-Liberty International Airport

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a notice to the Federal Register of its intention to identify a single low-cost or ultra-low cost carrier to operate 16 peak afternoon and evening runway timings at Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR).

The action comes on the heels of a DC Circuit Court ruling and President Joe Biden’s Executive Order promoting competition in the American economy that instructs federal agencies to take action to lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and faster economic growth.

The Biden administration plans to award 16 slots for flights at Newark International Airport to a low-cost carrier to spur competition at the busy northeast U.S. airport.

The U.S. Justice Department had urged transportation officials to decline to retire the 16 Newark slots and instead make them available in order to spur competition, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Department of Transportation’s filed a notice of proposed reassignment of schedules at Newark Airport.

“The Department of Justice applauds the Department of Transportation’s efforts to preserve competition from low-cost airlines at Newark airport, ” said Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Competition in the airline industry – and at Newark airport in particular – is in critically short supply. Low-cost carriers play an important role in keeping the airline industry competitive and the immense power of the major airlines in check.”

“We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation to address similar concerns at capacity-constrained airports, and to bring consumers more choices and lower prices,” said Powers. 

Separately, the Federal Aviation Administration will announce it is extending temporary waivers of minimum flight requirements at some major U.S. airports through late March 2022 for international operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, sources said.

Airlines can lose their slots at congested airports if they do not use them at least 80% of the time.

“Opening up more slots at Newark to lower cost carriers will provide air travelers with more choices and lower prices,” Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg said. “DOT’s action today is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s broader effort to create a more competitive economy that benefits the American consumer.”

This action follows on several steps that USDOT has taken in recent weeks as part of President Biden’s Executive Order on Competition and other efforts to protect consumers. Last week, USDOT released a report detailing the Department’s numerous actions to address the failure of airlines to provide timely refunds for flights cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer complaints spiked nearly 600% from the previous year and USDOT has taken actions that have helped thousands of people get their money back.  

DOT is planning additional steps to protect air travelers including:  

  • Initiating rulemaking that would enhance passengers’ rights when a flight is operating but the passenger decides not to fly because of government restrictions. Current regulations do not cover this situation.  
  • Moving forward with rulemaking on ancillary fees, called for in the President’s Executive Order, which would require airlines to increase the transparency of fees for ancillary services. 

For more information on the President’s Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy, read the fact sheet HERE

The FAA is proposing extending temporary waivers of the requirements at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that were to expire in late October, a document seen by Reuters shows.

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