American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are currently in court, as the Northeast Alliance is being challenged by the Department of Justice. On Friday, US executives made a very surprising discovery about why the airline lost some positions at JFK.
An American forgot that it had holes in JFK, and pulled them out of it
In the United States, New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) is one of the most airports with limited slots. In order to travel to the airport, airlines have to have take-off and landing slots, and this is meant to control the capacity at the airport.
This was one of the arguments made in favor of the US alliance and JetBlue – America claimed that it could not compete in New York without connecting JetBlue, because the airline could not get more slots. This led to a wonderful discovery – Americans have been back for some time at JFK because he simply forgot he had it.
In 2019, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an audit and found that American was reducing the use of its slots at JFK. As a result, American got seven slots. The slots basically operate under a “use it or lose it” policy, which means if you don’t use your slots, they will be removed.
American pulled it off because it forgot it had it, following the merger with US Airways. As Vasu Raja, Chief Commercial Officer of American Airlines, described this:
“Accounting and merging time slots after merging was a manual process. There is no good reason, and I’m a little on my own for what happened. For the worst of it, it makes us look totally silly.”
Interestingly at the time, both the American and the FAA did not even agree on the number of American JFK slots. After losing the seven ports, America thought it had 216 places, while the FAA thought America had 200 places. The two organizations ended up agreeing to allow America to hold onto the 210 places.
My Thoughts On Losing America JFK Slots
Some Thoughts About Americans Losing JFK Sites Because CEOs Forgot To Own It…
First of all you have to love the irony that this happened in court on the same day it was announced that United Airlines was pulling out of JFK, as the airline can’t get permanent slots. Here United is desperately trying to expand at the airport, while the Americans can’t even keep track of how many places they have at the airport.
Second, I wasn’t fully aware of how manual their tracking process is for airlines. Is this really how it works at most airports? Like, you might think that there will be some online entries accessible to both the FAA and airlines, that show the exact number of slots, etc., rather than the US having to add slots manually after merging. This sounds like a kite ticket hunt, rather than anything to expect in 2019 and beyond.
Finally, how can Americans in good conscience have an expiration policy for American AAdvantage miles, when the airline can’t even keep track of its slots? Are people supposed to keep track of their balance of a few thousand miles, while Americans can’t even keep track of a slot worth a lot more money than that?
While airport slots are often changed, it is usually because the airline simply forgot they had it, and as a result did not use it. But that’s exactly what happened after the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, where the “manual process” of calculating the time slots was apparently too complicated.
What do you think of this reveal of JFK American Slots?
(hat tip to David Slotnick)