Delta’s Slot Squatting in New York Reaches New Heights

Delta, JFK - New York/JFK, LGA - New York/La Guardia

With the industry’s eyes closely watching the end of the trial where the Department of Justice is suing to stop the Northeast Alliance between American and JetBlue, something far more anti-competitive is actually happening in New York. Delta — still unable to generate enough demand to support its New York flights and feeling the pinch of a regional pilot shortage — has resorted to some extreme slot squatting efforts. This week, the airline added three new destinations to its New York portfolio, none of which anyone in New York City will care to visit by plane.

The new additions this week are actually flights that currently operate 1x daily to Detroit and will now move to New York instead starting on January 9, 2023, each flying 2x daily.

  • Binghamton – LaGuardia
  • Ithaca – JFK
  • State College – LaGuardia

I asked Delta for comment, but it did not have a statement to share. The airline did point out that this is a doubling of frequency along with an upgauge from a CRJ-200 to CRJ-900, but I had expected it would want to put that out in a public statement. That’s still a tough argument to make.

The demand between New York and these cities is nearly nothing, at least for flights. A drive is between 3 and 4 hours on all these routes. Detroit, on the other hand, had at least some local demand from these cities. But more importantly, Detroit is a significant hub that allowed people to connect throughout the US. The only place that New York really improves connectivity is to the Northeast or abroad, neither of which have much demand at all.

None of these cities are Essential Air Service markets, so Delta doesn’t have to keep serving them. State College has ample service from American and United already. Ithaca only has flights to Newark on United, so this is now taking away any westbound options. And Binghamton would be left without any service if not for Avelo starting Orlando shortly. But then, Delta wouldn’t be able to squat on slots, so this is actually helpful for Delta to keep them flying.

This is really just Delta trying to find a place to park those slots while also juggling its regional fleet problems. After all, the flight from Detroit required aircraft time that can now be redeployed elsewhere. Instead, Delta can have Endeavor run these quick roundtrips instead of other frequencies in New York. The shorter flight time will help to minimize pilot needs while also sitting on slots. As an added bonus, one of the two daily flights in each market are late night flights that spend the night in the outstation instead of in New York.

This move to short-haul flying from New York has been a trend for some time now. Just take a look at this chart comparing this coming January’s service under 250 miles vs January 2020.

January 2023 vs January 2020 Flights from JFK/LGA < 250 Miles

Data via Cirium

Of course, the bulk of Delta’s service is in the important shuttle markets of Boston and Washington/National. Syracuse and Baltimore are the only other constants. Washington/Dulles used to be served from JFK as a Europe feeder. Now it’s from LaGuardia, a market Delta really has no business flying.

All those other markets have been added during the pandemic, mostly after the slot usage waivers expired and Delta had to start using everything or lose them. Of course, it had a shortage of regional pilots, so it had to find a way to fly those slots with the least aircraft time possible. That’s why it flies to all these cities now where there is no local demand.

New York remains a highly constrained market with plenty of airlines sitting on the outside looking for more slots. So seeing slot usage like this is incredibly frustrating since the people of New York City get almost no benefit. Just imagine how much more useful it would be if someone like Frontier, Southwest or even American/JetBlue were able to put these slots to better use. And that brings us to the DOJ.

The DOJ has been fighting the American/JetBlue Northeast Alliance in court, but American and JetBlue have been adding new service to a variety of markets that are now more competitive thanks to the partnership. Meanwhile, Delta is just parking slots.

Despite what the DOJ blindly believes, slot squatting is the most anti-competitive thing going on in New York today. Instead of trying to fight something that’s actually providing more service, the government should be looking at a smarter way to allocate slots.

If Delta has a good use for these slots, then great, use them. But what it’s doing now is just preventing other airlines with a better use from getting them, hoping that demand returns eventually. This is not how slots should work.

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84 comments on “Delta’s Slot Squatting in New York Reaches New Heights

  1. Delta serves JFK IAD up to 4 daily depending on the day. Service started in October. Paul (Republic Employee)

  2. Delta has 3 E175 flights scheduled today between JFK and IAD but the real point of the story here is that the DoJ doesn’t have much of a case against AA and B6 and the NEA. DL has poured billions into the NYC market since it emerged from Chapter 11 in 2007 (which it orchestrated with Northwest as they both essentially filed at the same time to clean up their balance sheets, screw their employees, and prepare themselves for a marriage in 2008). Delta’s efforts (and expenses) in NYC paid off around 2014 when it finally turned a profit in the market. It entered the pandemic with an outsized chunk of the slots at JFK and LGA and it needs to keep those to stay competitive and preserve its edge for when things ultimately do return to something that looks like 2019, if it ever does.

    AA’s unwillingness to file for Chapter 11 in the wake of 9/11 (it took them a decade to do it) caused it to have stubbornly high operating costs that would not allow it to compete effectively in NYC, notably at JFK and that all set it back to the point that today, without the NEA, AA probably can’t make JFK and LGA work. The slot sharing AA and B6 have is the core of the issue (or at least it should be). It’s not clear whether this is truly in violation or not. But clearly, DL is struggling to maintain a structure at JFK/LGA across its portfolio of slots and is dumping idiotic routes like Binghampton, State College, Worcester, etc…and absorbing the losses through the money it otherwise makes in NYC.

    Eventually, DL will have no choice but to make regional flying cuts, notably at JFK and lose some slots.

    1. Just like Washington DC the airlines continue to screw people over and over. Poor flight attendants go to training for weeks with no pay until they graduate. We don’t let Burger King do this to their employees. Write your congressperson and let them know that this is unacceptable. Lots of shenanigans going on with the gate slots for airlines to manipulate. Good call, I like your style.

    2. If we’re going to speak of idiotic, learn the correct spelling of the flights/cities you reference. Binghamton.

  3. Are the flights from NYC to these ultra-short destinations being flown as per schedule, or is DL regularly cancelling flights ?
    What aircraft type is DL using for these routes (ignoring Boston and Washington) ?
    How much money is it likely costing DL to operate flights to squat the slots ? That should be the prime motivator to discourage the most egregious squatting

    1. David – Good questions. Outside of Boston and DCA, these flights are largely on CRJ-700s and CRJ-900s in the month of Oct. The only exception under 250 miles is Dulles which is on the Embraer 175 and Martha’s Vineyard on the Embraer 170, but I wouldn’t count the latter as being a slot squatting effort. According to Anuvu data, these squatting flights are mostly operating. They tend to have completion factors between 95 and 97%. So it’s not the best, but it’s not

  4. Thank you for pulling the curtain back on Delta’s business conduct in slot-controlled NYC. Yes, the local (and visiting) population would be better-served by revoking those slots from Delta and awarding them to other carriers. Hell, the FIRST thing that should be done is to do away with RJ flying into LGA. Then remove the perimeter restrictions.
    But, absent those changes, I think Delta is actually being creative in this latest iteration of slot-squatting. Certainly, Delta is not the first carrier to squat on slots in LGA. But these latest city pairs show that Delta has carefully considered how to minimize their losses while maintaining the use of the slots. The pilots, equipment, timing of flights, and close-in nature of the flying all indicate creativity in loss reduction. These are not darts, thrown haphazardly at a board, like we see from the ULCC sector. As long as slot-squatting is permitted, I give Delta kudos for their creativity in this round.

  5. All three of those places have universities of fairly substantial size — that’s the market that Delta is serving. People are trying to get to, eg, Cornell from a fair distance and the short flights are feeders for those (the JFK to Ithaca flight is capturing folks coming internationally). The Delta flights from Detroit to Ithaca were targeted at international fliers coming in from Shanghai. These are price-insensitive folks, which means Delta can charge an arm and a leg (the Detroit-Ithaca flights were eye-wateringly costly).

    1. Yup – Cranky is underestimating demand from the universities here. Universities are also full of people with disposable income but no car to do a 3-4 hour drive. Wouldn’t be shocked if some of the posher NYC-area students at Cornell/Penn St./Binghamton are flying home on breaks.

      The other salient factor is the collapse in trans-Pacific travel, which still hasn’t really recovered. Less useful to have connectivity to Detroit if no one is flying the routes to Asia from there.

      1. This is a very salient point. Alex is spot on in saying that Cranky is definitely missing the demand from the undergraduate and university communities. That’s why Binghamton has traditionally had so much service. Those three weekly flights to Orlando on Avelo show the overwhelming demand. I hear the posh especially like flying on Avelo, so the Delta flights probably have no chance. If aha! wanted to come back, the demand of posh NYC students at SUNY Binghamton could probably sustain the airline for several decades.

        Shame on Cranky.

      2. Well, let’s just look at the Cirium data. For Q2 of this year, there were a whopping 8.6 passengers per day each way flying between NYC and State College on United’s double daily run. Ithaca was about the same at 8.3. Comparing to Detroit isn’t the question here, because Detroit just has much better connecting opportunities. Though if you want, Ithaca is also at 8.3 from Detroit while State College was at 6.1… but remember those are only single daily flights instead of double on United. And there’s no competition to Detroit whereas United already flies from Newark.

        University demand is very over-rated. I’m sure it’s great for spring break or at the beginning/end of school, but it’s just not that huge year-round.

        1. Yeah, good try, but what’s the revenue per seat? It’s not students flying, it’s professors and deans flying on the student budget.

          1. Total – For Q2 2022, the avg fare for those VERY few passengers was $175 from NYC to State College and $181 to Ithaca.

            1. Total – Yeah, no, I don’t have to do anything. But this is DB1B data which you are welcome to download from BTS and do as you will.

        2. Also, what exactly is your argument? That Delta should use those slots to provide the 86th flight of the day to (insert large urban center here) instead of underserved communities so that fares to that (insert large urban center here) are 3% less expensive?

          God knows, Chicago needs another connecting flight to NY.

          1. Yes, we in Chicago do need another connecting flight to New York. We just don’t want it to be on Delta.

  6. Just to be clear, B6+AA are coordinating schedules and cross-selling flights so they can reduce service and competition to places that people want to go (less service to Boston, Florida, California, Chicago, add more to… Milwaukee and KC?). It’s kind of you to support that collusion on their behalf, but as someone in Boston who would appreciate more competition,* I disagree.

    *More competition, even if it is from the two worst-run airlines.

  7. The Y axis is number of flights in the month?

    DL running 3x daily LGA-IAD is wild. JFK-IAD at least makes some semblance of sense, but 4x daily feels like more capacity than necessary.

    1. I don’t think United has as much frequency despite having a global hub at IAD

  8. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 prohibits the federal or state governments from dictating how public or private assets are used by airlines with limited exceptions. There is no room for “airline X serves that route so no other airline should” in the deregulated airline industry.

    DL has grown to be the largest airline at both JFK and LGA and also has amassed the largest slot portfolios at both airports and has the largest nationwide slot portfolio because they have looked for opportunities to grow. Both LGA and JFK are hubs and there is nothing that prevents DL from using its slots at LGA or JFK for connections or local traffic any more than AA is prohibited from making that choice at DCA; AA has the highest percentage of slots of any carrier has at any slot controlled airport now that UA is no longer slot-controlled. As with any hub, more destinations served creates more connecting opportunities. . DL’s hub at LGA has some of the lowest percentages of connecting traffic, far lower than AA at DCA.

    DL is the only one of the big 3 that has not either had slot controls at their hub removed because of underutilization as was the case with UA at EWR or be under a DOT supervised plan to increase slot usage to acceptable levels which is what the NEA requires from AA over many years.

    The local market for DTW to most of these cities is negligible. The majority of traffic from these cities is to the eastern US which is what DL serves from LGA. The cities that have some international potential get service to JFK.

    Other airlines have offered far more frequency – such as PHL to LGA a dozen plus times per day – than DL is offering in most of the “questionable” markets combined.
    Slot controls themselves are counter to public interests but DL has demonstrated at both JFK and LGA that they will add flights if slot controls are lifted and we have seen the same thing at EWR in the aftermath of the FAA’s decision to remove slot controls there. It is unlikely slot controls at JFK and LGA will be lifted.
    The best thing the feds could do is pressure the PANYNJ to remove the perimeter restriction at LGA just as the feds should do at DCA to allow slots to be used most efficiently by adding more destinations throughout the country and resulting in larger aircraft. And then force AA and B6 to their use slots in some form now

    1. @Tim, I hate to be the contrarian here, but many in the aviation world are eager for greater perimeter controls, not less. I have lobbied the PANYNJ, MWAA and several other airport authorities (including ATL, SLC, and SEA) to implement more perimeter controls. Airlines have shown time and time again that the deregulation act of 1978 was a mistake, and that it’s the government that needs to save us from ourselves. Allowing airlines to haphazardly choose where to fly from an airport has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster. The 1999 report on deregulation submitted to Congress by the Pajisco Economic Institute relayed this fact and it was codified when the 2011 update was published.

      Several members of the Congress have looked into increasing slot controls and perimeter restrictions in an effort to save the industry from themselves. I’m surprised to see your take as Delta has been one of the carriers most interested in this legislation. It knows it runs a superior operation to its competitors, so any alteration to the market would effect it the least.

        1. In all fairness, it may exist but only publish in another language, in which case (if it’s a small organization) it may have no mentions in English and so it wouldn’t come up in a search with its name in English.

          Of course, it’s questionable that such an organization would have specialized knowledge in airline matters, but then again we have plenty of academics here in the US that publish on the subject with, how shall we put it nicely, questionable expertise?

          (Yes, I’m looking in the direction of Wichita.)

      1. Population and money in this country have been gravitating to the top 30 cities for the last fifty years. So the traveling public is best served when the top O&Ds are flown nonstop by multiple carriers with different time options. I fully agree with removing all perimeter rules… Let large markets (Austin/West Coast) be served to LGA and free up regional flights to serve JFK where there’s real domestic and international connectivity to be had. Same thing would work between DCA/IAD

      2. What benefit would there be to imposing perimeters on the airports you mentioned when they’re the sole commercial airport in their region? Isn’t a perimeter typically imposed to shift longhaul traffic to a larger but less convenient airport in the same region (e.g. JFK, IAD)?

        1. I agree, I’m totally lost as to why anyone would think ATL needs a perimeter rule (or slots for that matter)

      3. Saying the Airline Deregulation Act was a “mistake” and “an unmitigated disaster” are a sweeping statement with little no evidence to support them, reports from the “Pajisco Economic Instutute” notwithstanding. Deregulation has led to massive growth in flights and industry employment, letting more people fly for much lower (inflation-adjusted) fares. Has it been perfect? Of course not. There have been impacts on small cities, some losing service altogether. But the vast majority of Americans have seen more service at lower prices.

        And I haven’t heard of anyone other than you lobbying for more perimeter controls. As @Andrew pointed out, perimeter controls are used to shift flights from one airport to another, not to reduce the total number of flights. It is true that the two airports that have perimeter controls in the US (LGA and DCA) also have slot restrictions, but you could remove the perimeter controls and still need the slot restrictions or face possible overscheduling.

    2. Tim has such strong feelings about slot squatting when it’s aa… now that it’s delta, he seems not to. What a surprise

      1. AA didn’t use its slots according to FAA regulations – not much different than what UA did which resulted in the FAA deciding to remove slot controls.
        DL has been and is using its slots. The discussion is about the belief that some have that some slots should be used differently – disregarding that other airlines including AA at DCA connect a higher percentage of traffic.
        BGM-LGA is only 2 miles different from DCA-ORF which AA flies via a regional.

        As to the comment above, I have no idea who is pushing more perimeter restrictions but they simply are not going to happen. The ones that exist are constantly being eroded; it is only because of Congressional pressure that DCA has as many outside perimeter flights as it does – and which LGA cannot have.

        1. Lol. You just really do amuse. AA absolutely has slot squatted. But to say they weren’t in compliance with the FaA is silly and uninformed. During jfk runway construction, aa had permission to under utilize its slots.

          Even the most recent comments during the NEA hearings… aa ended up with more jfk slots than the regulators thought they had as a result of “losing” jfk slots. Neither side seemed to have any idea how many jfk slots aa had, but the fact that aa ended up with more than the regulators thought they had says a lot…

          Try again, Tim. We all know your delta angle but even this is funny for you. You routinely go after aa for slot squatting in New York and, frankly, I don’t disagree. But now that delta has competition in NYC and started slot squatting, you seem to have no issue.
          I don’t expect anything from you in terms of unbiased thought, but at least try sometimes…

        2. DCA-ORF actually has local traffic due to the Navy and Naval contractors.
          LGA-BGM does not.
          Not comparable.

          1. I’d love for you to share with us the amount of local traffic from DCA to ORF. Since AA operates 4 large RJs per day, the number of seats that the government would have to fill is quite high to justify the flight based on local traffic. I’m also not sure that the majority of government passengers even travel by air on this route. That type of distance is well within what most travelers would consider “no time gained by flying” once you factor in airport security and the fact that few people are actually starting or ending their trip at the airport.

            The point is that, regardless of the route, we can come up with our own justifications for why one route or another should or should not be used based on airport resources. But even if slots were not the issue, there are many components of the airline or even public transportation system aside from aviation where we could argue it is not in the “public’s best interest” for someone to use that form of transportation – and we might be right.

            But we don’t and should not stop someone from driving when there are mass transportation options available on their route and neither should we tell airlines what routes they can fly. US airlines are free to hold assets – even when owned by the public – for their use as long as they comply with the rules for using those assets – and there simply are no rules that prohibit an airline for using slots to use it entirely for connections.

            1. Oh, I’ll be happy to provide that data since you can’t seem to find it yourself. Q2 2022 DB1B data shows there were 101.6 passengers per day each way between Norfolk at the DC area (BWI/DCA/IAD).

            2. thanks, CF.
              But DCA is the only slot-restricted airport.
              Even if all of those passengers fly from DCA, they would fit on 2 of AA’s large RJ flights per day with plenty of room to spare.
              IOW, the other two flights are just there for slot-squatting or else we can accept that a majority of capacity on this route is used for connections – or else wasted by below average load factors.
              If 60% of capacity for connections is not high enough, what should be the threshold?

              Lively discussion.

              Just trying to come up w/ some quantifiable metrics to justify the argument regarding the use of DL’s LGA slots.

              can you let us know what percentage of passengers connect on AA at DCA vs. DL at LGA?

              thank you, kindly

            3. Ummm, nobody is accusing AA of slot squatting at DCA so these comparisons are ludicrous even before looking at the data.

            4. so, Bill, if someone just accuses someone of something, then they are on the defensive but we shouldn’t look at a wholistic assessment of slot usage?
              I can do you without a doubt that DL’s LGA hub has had the lowest percentage of connecting traffic of any of the big 3 airports or any other major hub airport in the NE, including DCA.
              I can also tell you that there are dozens of routes in the SE that are predominantly if not nearly entirely connecting traffic to AA’s hub at CLT and DL’s hub at ATL.
              Those two airports are not slot-controlled but they do use public resources.

              We have long accepted that it was ok for EWR to carry plenty of connections even when it was slot-controlled and we accept connections at JFK and DCA.

              I’m trying to understand the threshold if one exists and if there isn’t a threshold why are we even calling anyone as a slot squatter? and if there is a real threshold, why shouldn’t we hold everyone in the same situation (slot-controlled vs. non-slot controlled airport) to the same standard?b

            5. Oh Tim
              The way you tie yourself into knots to make a point that isn’t there is always fun
              Now you demand data for something you claim on every website to know already? Connection data?
              Just enjoy your life and go have a beer.
              There are airports where aa has slot squatted. To assume dca is one of them in 2022 is just very tim Dunn: desperately trying to make a point that isn’t there.
              Go make your own blog and see who reads it. Stop trolling every other blog with viewership.

            6. Slot squatting is like what Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart said about pornography… I know it when I see it.

              6 O&D pxs per day equals squatting.

              100 equals somewhat legit service.

              Is it really that hard to determine?

            7. @Julie,

              When American or United “squat” on slots, or have outsized market shares, that’s evil. When Delta does it – it’s good business. That’s the kind of double standard fan boys employ when they want to see competitors liquidated.

            8. So glad to know that charges of slot squatting are subjective and not a standard that regulators, the people that make decisions, care about.
              Slot underutilization is what AA and UA have done. Never did I criticize how they used their slots as long as they did.

  9. Seems like the issue you are describing is more of an industry / airport specific issue rather than a DL issue.

    Is it reasonable to criticize DL for serving a route with competition on it (State College) and then stating “how much more useful it would be if someone like Frontier, Southwest or even American/JetBlue were able to put these slots to better use”? What current unserved routes do you realistically think they are going to fly to? Any realistic and viable option will already have an existing carrier on it.

    As far as resource issues are concerned, all airlines are facing this at the moment. Therefore, it’s hard to criticize DL for this issue.

    It seems like the criticism here should be focused on the existing cap rules and issues this creates given the current environment rather than placing that blame on DL.

    1. Eric – Who is placing the blame on Delta? They are doing what is in their best interest. It is not in the best interests of the traveler, but that’s not what Delta’s charge is. The team at Delta is doing what they can to maximize their profit while squatting on assets that they expect will have future value above what’s there today. The rules would need to change to force the situation.

      1. @Cranky Flier
        I’m a loyal NYC based Delta flyer for a couple of decades. I’ve loved their investment in the network, planes and facilities here. They’ve showed a higher level of customer care through the years. Have they had issue sure but I think you’re being hard on them here. These services will help those going to those colleges upstate and connecting to or through NYC. Trust me they’d rather have a link to NYC then DTW as much as I love that airport for connections. There will be some O&D to NYC vs. nearly nothing for DTW.

        What I wish you’d focus, shed some light on and maybe help lobby for elimination of is the perimeter rule which is archaic and fundamentally hinders LaGuardia service and connectivity. It’s an instance of government restricting fare market and its not in the best interest of NYC based flyers. I’ve heard the politician arguments that small cities would lose service so maybe the solution is to have perimeter rule on half the slots or provide airlines slot exemptions if service is to a small city. Just brainstorming but the perimeter rule should really go.

    2. I think the point is that LGA-SCE does not need to be flown as it has virtually zero local traffic. Using that slot to add competition on routes NYers actually want to fly would be far more beneficial for NYers.

      1. Slots should be auctioned. The FAA knows this, it’s the only way to ensure the highest and best and most efficient and environmentally friendly use. The airlines hate it, but if the revenue could substitute for ticket taxes and fees, maybe they wouldn’t hate it so much.

        (EAS demonstrates the efficiency, environmental and otherwise, is not the most important goal, though.)

        1. Auctioning slots would result in a greater concentration of power among the largest airlines.
          The US – along w/ most countries – allows incumbent airlines to maintain their full slot portfolios.
          Unless the number of slots at an airport are increased, then the only likely way that new carriers can gain access to slot controlled airports – and there are just 3 that have federal slot controls – is as a result of consolidation in one form or another – among major slot holders at that airport.
          None of that is the case for Delta at LGA or JFK. They went through a 2 year process to gain the one-quarter of slots they got from USAirways as part of the slot swap.
          As hard as it is for most people to grasp, the majority of DL’s slots at JFK were gained when the airport had no slot controls – that happened post 9/11 – and DL simply added flights that later became grandfathered.

          Some people can wring their hands about how unfair it is that Delta is building a hub at LGA that includes short-haul destinations that primarily carry connecting traffic but as long as that is allowed at DCA -and is happening there – which also has perimeter restrictions and no longhaul international flights – there isn’t a thing wrong w/ what DL is doing.
          Add in that other hubs like EWR and other hubs have long had close-in destinations and nothing changed in that regard before or after slot restrictions were removed, and there simply is no legal or even justifiably economic reasons why DL shouldn’t be able to use its slots as it believes its best for its network.

          And, again, Delta IS using its slots while American is still on a rehabilitation plan supervised by the DOT to get its slot usage in NYC back to acceptable levels. The FAA didn’t even give UA that option at EWR which is the only reason why that airport is no longer slot-controlled. UA’s inability to get back into JFK proves that having slot controls is a competitive advantage for DL and they are going to follow the rules to ensure that advantage remains; they simply don’t care what anybody thinks outside of the rules.

  10. CF wrote: “Despite what the DOJ blindly believes, slot squatting is the most anti-competitive thing going on in New York today. Instead of trying to fight something that’s actually providing more service, the government should be looking at a smarter way to allocate slots.”

    To which I add: … Congress could invest in improved air traffic control infrastructure to increase safety and capacity. Of course, Congress and/or the DOJ could always improve air traffic control and find smarter ways to allocate slots.

  11. Delta is pulling Detriot service from my home market of South Bend too, leaving us without any air connections to the Northeast without backtracking (No I don’t want to fly to New York via MSP or ATL). United is via ORD, American is via CLT. If they were replacing our DTW flight with a LGA flight there would be community happiness, not frustration that I keep seeing locally. I guess our market that actually is a real market to NY (United used to have a daily EWR nonstop, and all 3 airlines have non-stop flights on football weekends regardless or who the visiting team the Fighting Irish are playing) is too far from NYC to be a place for Delta to send planes and slot-squatt.

    1. What gets lost in the discussion about regional jet flights being cut at DTW (and other midwest hubs) is that the midwest is full of small to medium sized cities. Regional jet flights must have either some level of local demand or be relatively low cost to operate. There is no such thing as a low cost to operate regional jet flight any more; the southeast is also full of small and medium sized cities but Delta is able to make many of those cities work using larger aircraft that have lower per seat costs.
      SBN-DTW has no local demand. If it comes down to connecting traffic, then other hubs make more sense, even if means that Delta loses connectivity between some midwest cities and other cities on its network. Remember that Delta started the process of removing regional jets in favor of more mainline aircraft more than a dozen years ago. American has taken the approach to retain RJs – even at high labor costs – in order to serve many cities to multiple AA hubs. United is probably heading in the same direction as Delta which just means that some cities will be cut from their network while others will get service to just one or two hubs instead of multiple hubs as has been the case for many DL and UA small cities.
      Since NYC is the top O&D destination for many cities by virtue of it being the largest US city, economics or slot limitations don’t allow NYC service to every city. Notre Dame brings the most traffic to SBN and airlines do add extra service and seats when demand exists.

      1. AA has retained RJ’s because of their looser scope clause allows them to fly significantly more 2-class RJ’s than their competitors, particularly 65 seat CRJ-700’s and Embraer 170’s

      2. The end of the regional jet era is going to mean more backtracking in general for non-hub-to-hub travel. It’s just the only way to serve smaller cities efficiently.

  12. Honestly, I like the idea of a BGM to NYC flight as when I lived there for college and later work the lack of a flight to NYC was a huge pain for business or interviews given the lack of a train connection, meaning there was only bus or drive yourself. That said I very much agree that this is a slot squat maneuver and since BGM to DTW was the only scheduled commercial service in BGM at the moment this is probably going to be worse for connectivity out of the city since the new destination is LGA and not JFK

    1. BGM (and other very small markets) are probably going to have to get used to double-connections again for smaller destinations. From LGA, Delta can take you to one of their other hubs, and from there to your final destination. Definitely less convenient, but doable.

      The main problem here would be if your final destination is a smaller city in the West, since DL won’t take you from LGA to the SLC hub (even if they wanted to, they could only do it on Saturday.) You might have to change to UA or WN to Denver to avoid another extra stop. This is a case where relaxing the perimeter rule would help, perhaps just a targeted exemption for any carrier who wants to fly to a hub* outside the perimeter that offers more than a certain number of additional connection opportunities?

      * or whatever Southwest is calling it’s “they’re not hubs!” hubs these days.

  13. Delta screwed us on our flight from Pittsburgh to NYC. Cancelled our 11am flight out and booked us on one at 7am when we live almost 3 hours Way.

    Pur return flight was originally at 2pm, they bumped it to 7pm and our check out time is at 11am.

    When I asked them to help me book another flight they said I’d have to pay all the change fees and refused to give me a refund.

    When I finally complained to either enough people or the correct people, I got a fight out of Columbus at a decent time for $0 extra.

  14. The port authority set the slot rules, and DL is conforming to them as they are set. I don’t see any fault with DL here.
    The nature of short-haul flights is that they are going to be predominantly connecting traffic. I also think a lot of the intra-NY service is political catering.
    While EWR is no longer slot-controlled, UA still maintains service to most of these same airports (sans Binghamton, Baltimore, & Hartford, but plus Manchester & Harrisburg), so DL is hardly unique in having/keeping this short-haul service.
    Note that DL left Elmira flying to DTW, so that must have legitimate demand over Detroit.

    1. JetBlue and Delta both do a lot of intra-NY service and I don’t doubt it has helped them politically (both in Albany and with the state delegation in DC). Moreso than United from EWR and certainly AA.

      It also provides some level of pricing competition with the buses plus Amtrak on the Empire Corridor.

  15. TBH, the one angle how this doesn’t help the traveler is if you’re flying out of BGM for instance, any flight outside of LGA’s permitter rules has either become a double connection or something where you have to transfer between LGA and JFK/EWR on the ground.

    SEA -> BGM goes from being a 7hr35m itinerary to a 10hr15m itinerary. (And thats the shortest itinerary DL offers, there are several longer ones.) The return is even worse, it goes from being a 8hr10m itinerary to a 11hr24m itinerary at best. Plus all the additional risks of misconnections, mechanical, or weather delays

    1. ITH and ELM are both about an hour from BGM and offer 1-stop connections to the West. If you`re north or south of BGM, SYR or AVP may be an option, each about 1 hr 20 min from BGM.
      I have a feeling flyers in the region are used to comparing the three area airports (BGM, ITH, ELM) for their best option.

      1. 100% correct. I always compare all three (and SYR, and sometimes AVP). I love that they are all going to different places now. It just provides more options for those in the Binghamton area for connectivity that may have better flight times or fares instead of always needing to look at SYR. DTW is a nice hub, but it doesn’t catch everywhere I need to go either. Having the option of going to JFK or LGA through BGM or ITH (instead of solely looking at SYR), is a nice benefit.

        1. I mean I guess if they’ll only serve one hub from each airport, it is better that they’re not all going to the same hub.

          Still, its a shame to see the downfall from the 80s & 90s where multiple hubs were served.

          Plus its one of those things that might occur to folks who live there, but might not for those who are visiting.

  16. So unless the residents of NYC somehow directly benefit from a flight into or out of JFK or LGA then those flights shouldn’t exist? Sooo, the rest of the state can just, IDK, piss off? Boy I’m sure glad you aren’t in charge of route planning. ITH has one daily flight to DTW. Arriving at nearly 7pm. DTW is no one’s final destination, so what kind of connections do you think are available at that hour? ITH to JFK at 6am will enable passengers to reach their final destinations on the same day. The airlines are doing what they can to continue service to smaller communities in spite of regional pilot shortages brought on by their own misuse of federal dollars earmarked to continue operating during the pandemic,. instead used to offer early retirement buyouts to mainline pilots. Are these small regional airports, who have received billions in AIP dollars, supposed to close up and be left to rot, sucking their local communities dry for repayment? For what? One or two more flights to the left coast? Sure sounds like you think so.

    1. Frankly, I’d guess most people in Upstate would rather have a daily guaranteed flight to NYC than to anywhere else (regardless of connections) if you offer them a choice of just one.

      Delta’s squatting honestly doesn’t bother me much in this case as otherwise Coach USA bus prices would go through the roof from having a monopoly on the routes- to say nothing of NYC/suburban traffic adding an hour-plus to many trips.

    2. Some of those small regional airports should close up and be left to rot. The nonsense of having 3 tiny airports within an hour drive of each competing with each other for the same scraps with is a huge part of this problem.

      Life, liberty and convenient air service within an hour of my front door… One of these was not provided for in the declaration of independence.

  17. Slightly related, but I read the international slot waiver program in JFK is ending. How many slots is that likely to open? Is this something that would help UA return to JFK or would it still not be enough of a slot portfolio?

  18. CF, I would be interested to see how many cities have been cut from DTW in favor of NYC. My hometown airport, DAY, lost it’s DTW flight in favor of LGA basically forcing everyone to use ATL.

    1. Redlegs – I think Dayton may be the only one. There are other markets that Delta has left from Detroit, but they are usually either leaving the market entirely (like Scranton or Manchester) or they’re keeping service at MSP or Atlanta, like from Central Wisconsin or Evansville.

  19. A better solution than slot auctions for allocating limited airport capacity:
    Slot auctions raise fares for everyone. The true goal is to move the maximum number of passengers through an airport of limited capacity. Airlines can do this by flying big planes to popular destinations (or hubs) with low fares. To encourage this, every quarter find the 5% of flights during each hour of the day carrying the fewest total passengers (this should be analyzed hour-by-hour so off-peak flights are not overly penalized). Competitors may propose replacements for those slots. Those with convincing proposals that they will carry more passengers should be given the slots (taking into account the reliability of each airline’s previous proposals and forecasts). Over time, competitive pressure will upgrade slots throughout the day with larger planes and lower fares to fill all the seats, thus maximizing the airport’s passenger throughput.
    As far as less popular or smaller destinations: they will either consolidate to fewer daily flights on larger planes, or, less optimally, slots can be reserved for them and their smaller planes. But carving exemptions for small planes/destinations defeats the purpose, so I think these destinations just have to accept that instead of having X flights a day on commuter jets, they will have X/3 flights/day on 737s. The only exceptions that should be carved out are if there is less than one (or maybe two) 737 load(s) per day of demand.

    1. problem is that the system you propose is prohibited by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
      Airlines can hold government assets but the government cannot tell the airlines how to use them except in limited circumstances.
      And there are dozens of markets that don’t support 3 737’s worth of LOCAL passengers per day from LGA (depending on the size of the 737 but the average 737 capacity at LGA is north of 160 passengers/flight.

      The perimeter restrictions at LGA and DCA are the most significant restrictions on the ability of airlines to maximize the number of passengers per flight; a huge part of the western US is excluded from nonstop access to DCA and LGA.

      Rebuilding the terminals was one part of why the size of aircraft at LGA and DCA was artificially low but that process is nearing completion and gate areas are larger. The length of the runways is another part of the problem but there are nonstop flights from DCA to the west coast so there are aircraft that can do the job.

      Let’s remember that DL’s and then AA’s average aircraft size at LGA continues to grow as a result of the DL-US slot swap and then the NEA which allows AA to swap slots with B6.

      Let’s revisit this discussion in 5 years and see if there is both higher gauge and longer average length; airlines will be free to use slots for the markets that they think are best for their networks including for markets where there are high percentages of connecting passengers.

      1. > And there are dozens of markets that don’t support 3 737’s worth of LOCAL passengers per day from LGA

        To clarify, I’m saying a lot of smaller destinations would eventually go from 3 RJs per day to one 737. I get that’s a less convenient schedule, but it moves more passengers through a limited airport, and that should be the goal.

  20. These destinations (especially BGM) are mostly useless as O/D flights but you missed one important connection LGA and JFK both offer. It’s not just the Northeast, it’s… Florida!

    While 2x weekly BGM-MCO on Avelo is nice, it’s not particularly flexible. I’m not sure DL cares much about Avelo, but this certainly puts it in the Florida market from all of the three destinations. Yes, it’s only a factor six months of the year. But no one wants to fly from any of these airports to DTW to connect to Florida. Horribly out of the way.

    ITH was likely chosen to connect to JFK due to Cornell (international traffic) while BGM with its SUNY school has more of a Northeast appeal (more connections via LGA). ELM has no large college so it somewhat makes sense to keep the DTW there (maybe Corning employees fly out west?). It also has more Florida flights than the other two (Allegiant).

    Overall though, great write up and I agree about the slot squatting.

  21. You forgot to mention the slots DL is squatting in your own backyard…LGB! DL has 7 slots at LGB (I think had as many as 12 at one point), but they have only averaged 4 flights to SLC; they have flown only to LAS for a short time, but no other destinations. Are they playing keep away from WN. Remember, DL and WN have been in a long dispute over gates at Love Field. Since WN has been losing slots at SNA, has DL been squatting to restrict/slow WNs growth out of LGB??

    BTW, I see WNs LGB-OGG service returns in March 2023!

  22. I’m all for building connecting traffic into the northeast although I would prefer if DL fed more of the international feed through BOS vs JFK as the NYC market can support most European markets on its own and BOS could use the boost.

    Back to my main point: from an overall public policy perspective, we would be better served if the DOT and PANYNJ imposed restrictions on slot usage at LGA/JFK and EWR:
    1. No local traffic on short flights (150 miles but you can make an argument for up to 250 miles).
    2. No use of aircraft with less than 100 seats.
    3. Eliminate the 1500 mile cap on LGA

    Why those three rules? They will drive behavior better use of slots, reduce “waste” and increase competition in NYC and in smaller northeast markets.

    Yes (as someone will surely point out) cutting the 1500 mile limit will open LGA-West Coast service and just cannibalize long-distance traffic into JFK/EWR. However LGA’s short runways and small ramp will overall prevent a total run to this as economically makes sense to fly larger jets. It will allow UA to return viable service to the City and LI population (more competition). This will also make the feeder routes more productive (more on that below).

    Next up: the no local traffic rule will kill the short slot squatting routes and KILL the Shuttles once and for all. The Shuttles have slowly died since 9/11 and the ’08 market crash. Just push the traffic on the train and buses and be done with it. Will there still be flights between DCA/BOS and JFK/EWR/LGA? Yes because there is value in feeding the hub. But now instead of 15+ flights between BOS/DCA and LGA, now it’s 4 or 5 per day, creating 20-ish additional slots for both DL and AA/B6 at LGA alone. Similarly, the flights from PHL/ALB/BDL/BWI, etc will all be reduced to just feeding the hubs–which in turn helps to support longer routes to smaller cities.

    Finally, the size/mainline requirement will keep the two above working. Not will reduce superfluous frequencies designed to keep competition off a route (so no more 9x to RDU). Aircraft size also helps: that you have to use an E90 or A220 or larger encourages productive use of feed and in turn helps the smaller upstate, PA and New England markets by encouraging DL/AA/UA to combatively price seats to stimulate demand and fill the additional seats that now exist on the flights to the CHS, ECP, and TYS of the world.

    Am I reducing congestion and improving the environment with this? Not directly and no right away. But this does encourage more productive use of the airspace and that in turn eliminates waste. The additional amount of CO2 created by an E90 is marginal compared to an E75 or A220. If we assume (which is my thesis) that airlines will fill NYC airspace to capacity for the next 10 to 20 years, then we’re better off maximizing that space, pushing as many people through it, and then eliminating redundant traffic (sorry DTW, PHL and IAD).

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