Newark Leaving the NYC City Code Is Not a Big Deal


Starting on October 3, Newark will no longer be considered a New York City airport… or something like that. The reality is actually quite boring, but the news has spread like wildfire thanks to misunderstandings about what this actually means. I wasn’t planning on writing this up at all, but well, now it seems like a good opportunity to shed some light on what is happening here.

This tweet was when I first heard that the change was happening. The screenshot which appears to be a communication from Lufthansa about the change, has set off concerns that if you search for New York City, you will no longer be shown flights to/from Newark. That is not the case.

This change is really about airline pricing and not much more. See, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has different sets of codes which are used for different things. We’re all familiar with airport codes, but there are also a set of city codes that are meant primarily for pricing purposes.

In many cases, the airport code is the same as the city code, but there are several exceptions. Usually, the reason for an exception is because there are multiple airports under a single city code, but sometimes it’s just historical precedent. Here are some of the more common ones I remember using back in my pricing analyst days.

  • CHI includes O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW)
  • DTT includes Metro (DTW) and I assume the old City airport (DET) which has no service
  • HOU includes Hobby (HOU) and Intercontinental (IAH)
  • LON includes Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), Stansted (STN), City (LCY), and Luton (LTN)
  • MKC includes Kansas City Intl (MCI) and I assume the old Downtown airport (MKC) which has no service
  • NYC includes JFK (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark (EWR) for now
  • ORL includes Orlando Intl (MCO) and Sanford (SFB)
  • PAR includes de Gaule (CDG) and Orly (ORY)
  • TYO includes Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT)
  • WAS includes National (DCA) and Dulles (IAD)
  • YTO includes Toronto/Pearson (YYZ) and Toronto/City (YTZ)

The list goes on and on, but you get the point. The rationale for this kind of thing is to make it easier to set fares in a given city without having to duplicate the effort. The reality ends up often being the opposite, however. Because frequently an airline will decide it wants to, say, charge more to fly to DCA than to IAD due to its close-in location. To achieve that, the airlines simply put in the fare rules which airport is allowed under each fare.

IATA is an organization of standards, and as spokesperson Perry Flint explained:

The Pricing Automation Working Group… has been working over the past 3 years on creating a common viable industry standard for the consistent identification of cities for pricing and fare construction.

This change is the result of that review. So now, Newark fares will be filed to EWR while JFK and LaGuardia fares will continue to be filed to NYC. That is all that needs to change here.

What about searches in the GDS? Those are not tied to city codes but rather Metropolitan Areas. As Perry explains again…

Metropolitan Areas will continue to be used for schedules and availability – for example, here EWR will remain in the Metropolitan Area of NYC and any GDS availability request for NYC will continue to show EWR.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone using a GDS today since there are already discrepancies between what you see there and how fares are file. For example, if you search for WAS flights, BWI is included. If you search for LAX, it shows Ontario (ONT) flights. And if you search for flights to anywhere in Florida, it automatically includes options to hell since they are so similar.

The only other change of significance is the last bullet point in that stated Lufthansa communication.

… in an involuntary case (e.g. flight cancellation FRA-JFK) a rebooking to FRA-EWR is considered as O&D change and requires a waiver.

This should just be a technical issue and one that is entirely of Lufthansa’s own doing. The way I read this, Lufthansa’s systems will require a travel agency to get a waiver to reissue the ticket to EWR instead of JFK because it is no longer considered the same market from a pricing perspective.

Other airlines have long created their own “co-terminals” which allow for reaccommodation between airports without any issues, so I don’t know why Lufthansa is making its policy so difficult here. But I don’t read this as saying that you might not get a waiver. It’s just that an extra step is involved.

To wrap this up, none of this is going to change anything for travelers. It might make travel agents work a little harder in rare cases, but this is really just about how fares are filed. Everyone can take a deep breath and relax.

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29 comments on “Newark Leaving the NYC City Code Is Not a Big Deal

  1. “This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone using a GDS today since there are already discrepancies between what you see there and how fares are file. For example, if you search for WAS flights, BWI is included. If you search for LAX, it shows Ontario (ONT) flights. And if you search for flights to anywhere in Florida, it automatically includes options to hell since they are so similar.”

    In more ways than one.

  2. “And if you search for flights to anywhere in Florida, it automatically includes options to hell since they are so similar.”

    This is what I needed to start my day :)

  3. I swear that 20 years ago QBA was a GDS code for the SF Bay Area, so you could get SFO/OAK/SJC all in one search. That was useful, I’m not sure why it went away.

      1. JB – Yeah, and there was QLA too. I think those were GDS-specific codes that were created to show the metro areas, but I don’t know if they still exist anywhere. They definitely don’t work in Sabre.

  4. Given that UA is the primary airport at EWR and they will be “disconnected” from NYC from a pricing perspective by this move (we all knew all along that New Jersey is not NYC as much as UA and CO before them wanted to tell us otherwise), there is extra work on UA”s part to be competitive with fares out of NYC plus whatever they want to file out of EWR. Not impossible but it is extra work and could create a mess of fares where airlines operating East of the Hudson want to match what is happening at EWR and vice versa.
    Not having to follow everything that is filed out of the real NYC – where most of the low cost carrier capacity in the NYC metro area exists – could be a blessing for UA’s pricing at EWR but it could also make it harder for them to fill all of these MAXs that will be coming to EWR as the RJs are pushed out.
    The converse could be true for true NYC airlines that want to be competitive with what UA does out of EWR but the majority of seats and carrier options are East of the Hudson so, if there is a competitive winner it is the airlines with hubs in real NYC.

    1. There is no strategic winner or loser here. This is just a basic change to a standard that the airlines themselves decided made sense. I’m assuming you don’t have exposure to airline pricing tools, but it is very easy to keep one city common-rated with another if you so choose. This really is a non-event.

      1. Change, by its nature, impacts different people differently. Some benefit from change while some are harmed. There is no such thing as neutral change.

        If the intent was to common-rate or “match lowest” there is no benefit gained while the number of fares to manage balloon.

        Removing the co-terminal provides the opportunity to strategically price but it does impact carriers on different sides of the Hudson differently.

        The real issue is to look at what carriers do not serve all 3 NYC airports and how those different combinations of service by airport impacts pricing. Just for starters, WN’s absence from EWR and UA’s likely need to drop JFK (again) has strategic and pricing implications as a result of removing EWR as a NYC co-terminal.

        1. Tim, CF just explained that this is a thing about pricing and he also explained that its pretty easy to keep one city common rated to another in the airline pricing tools, and that this is a non-issue.

          You do realize CF worked in airline pricing for many years, and unless you’ve worked in that industry as well he’s more of an expert than either of us. So defer to him.

          1. Nick,
            first, if CF wants to be the expert and not hear feedback, then he would not open the article to discussion. He, in fact, has been gracious enough to entertain commentary as he always does.
            second, he hasn’t responded to my statement – and neither have you – that merely locking one airport to others doesn’t accomplish anything other than create a bunch of additional fares. The whole point of separating one airport from another is to be able to create airport strategies.
            I would far rather read the implications of the real separation of EWR from NYC including by the differences in carrier-airport specific service between the 3 NYC airports than to simply read it is no big deal from a pricing perspective when it clearly was done for real reasons that we recognize don’t have anything to do with how schedules are displayed.
            If he chooses not to answer, that is his choice and I respect his decision.

            1. As someone who has actually worked in airline pricing, like Cranky, you’re reading way too far into this. First of all, the change was made by IATA, who couldn’t care less about the different pricing strategies that different airlines employ. They wouldn’t do it to either give or take a pricing advantage from any airline. Simply put, there is no “point” to be made about strategy because IATA doesn’t do strategy. While we don’t have a lot of documentation from them at this point, based on the LH tweet that was originally picked up it appears they did it to simplify the bookkeeping. Nothing more, nothing less.

              As to duplicating fares… that happens all the time. It’s not tidy, nor is it efficient, but that’s how airlines do business. They build fare matches and copy them around to wherever they need them. In this case, however, for many airlines there won’t even be a change. Many airlines have been filing separate fares to EWR, JFK, and LGA for ages. This change will literally do nothing to alter their pricing strategies. For those airlines who haven’t been pricing differently by airport code already then sure, they may have to duplicate a few fares, but those will be a drop in the bucket compared to number of fares they already have filed.

              There really isn’t anything else here. Airlines will continue to price the same way they have. Those who want to group EWR with NYC will still do it, those who don’t will continue to separate it. Nothing changes. You can keep shouting that there must be something to it all you want, but you’re simply wrong.

              While I’m at it, if I were you, I would continue to expect to be ghosted by Cranky. Why would he reply when you’re constantly a jerk to everyone on this thread? You never admit you’re wrong, even when you are and get up on the dumbest soapboxes that none of us want to hear. You single-handedly ruin this comments section day after day with your misinterpretation of whatever the news is. Why would Cranky encourage that by responding to you? Why do any of the rest of us? I honestly don’t know.

            2. dfw88,
              the point I have made which no one has yet to address is that there are benefits in separating EWR from NYC. If the intent was to simply duplicate and copy fares from one airport, then there would have been no reason to have created a separate city.
              If you have done airline pricing, then you have done pricing strategies including linking and separating specific airports and airline fares in order to maximize revenue.
              Since you say you have done airline pricing, perhaps you can share some of the strategies you used – which might give insights into the BENEFITS of separating EWR from NYC rather than just repeating that “there is nothing here”

              Everyone that posts on this forum posts at Cranky’s pleasure. he can shut down what he wants but he allows my posts because he recognizes that healthy discussion – even if it isn’t the status quo – is representative of who is and I commend him for that.

  5. I still get an OAG monthly (it helps to have some stuff at your fingertips). In recent years they have decoupled OAK/SFO and also WAS/BWI, but EWR is a bit different, as it is still the easiest and most direct link to manhattan.

    1. I keep hoping Avelo will start non-stop service from New Haven to Helsinki just for the HVN-HEL routing.

  6. Then there is Rockford IL. I am going near there next week and I was looking to see if there were any Allegiant flights that might fit my trip and this avoid O’Hare…and at least in the OAG Rockford is only shown as part of Chicago.

    But it 90 miles away! It is the same distance as NY to Philly. Seems more than a little silly to me. Guess that happens when you name the airport “Chicago Rockford International Airport” even though it’s two hours away or more at rush hour.

  7. Of course, to us aging aviation geeks, these things are important, or should I say, hilarious.

    Baltimore should always be listed as BAL, Friendship. but, I’m just fighting progress, I guess.

    OAG’s Pocket Flight Guide had, and still does have a Baltimore listing. BWI flights used to also be included in the Washington city-air with all of the IAD and DCA, flights. No more,> I’m not sure why.

    Of course, this always brings me back to the “Direct Flight” nonsense. I see Southwest has flights, “direct flights,” each with two stops on the 27-mile route between BWI and DCA. (Sept. 2022, OAG Pocket Flights Guide

    No, they don’t make stops at Martin and College Park. From BWI, WN1210, goes via HOU and MSY; WN1504, goes via ORD and BNA; WN1971 goes FLL ad MCO and from DCA, there is WN 3316, which goes via MDW and GRR., and WN2066 goes via BNA and ORD.

    What fares do they charge for these flights? Probably, “we list these flights but we don’t actually allow anyone to purchase a BWI-DCA ticket.”

    No, then why bother listing them?

    Are there any city-pairs being listed anyplace shorter than 27 miles?

    UA is just about the last domestic airline to list “change-of- gauge” flights as “Direct Flights” “We’ve always done things this way. That’s what our customers want.. OH!!!

    1. ORD to MDW is 27 miles (less if you don’t take the expressways), and my electronic travel agent actually gave me an option on WN to book a two-stop, seven-hour trip (but didn’t show me the destinations). There’s the possibility that Delta will let you do ORD – DTW – MSP – MDW. There’s also IAH to HOU, which is 28 miles by car, but WN flies into both.

      1. And, back in the Eighties, Continental (CO) had a DC-9 that shuttled between Houston’s airports, Hobby and Intercuntinental. An article in the now-defunct Frequent Flyer magazine stated that flying time between IAH and HOU was nine minutes, with “in-flight service limited to connecting information.”

  8. Given that airlines can and generally do set fares for specific airports in cities, set their own co-terminal policies, and choose what airports to include in different searches on their websites, is the only point of having them at all anymore just how they appear in GDS searches?

  9. As a downstream service provider for Airline Revenue Accounting, this change (or more specifically the cutover) is making us really worried, if all the fare calculations (cities) from all the different GDSs are gonna be correct from day one matching the delivered flight coupons (airport)… Furthermore, it was unclear whether the needed TPMs and prorate factors for interline settlement would be available on time. Also, the cutover date doesn’t coincide with the quarterly release of the prorate manual base amounts and provisos needed for proper interline settlement whenever there is no special prorate agreement.
    All in all, this topic kept us quite busy these last months…
    By the way, the cutover was recently postponed twice, first to November, and now the date is April 3rd 2023…

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