LAXintl
Topic Author
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GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:52 pm

The United States Government Accountability Office is out with a report which suggest the FAA could improve its rules to enhance competition and make better us of available capacity at slot constrained US airports.

The GAO found that while the FAA rightfully has instituted slot controls to help manage congestion at four US airports, the rules however in effect allow some airport capacity to go unused, and this capacity is therefore unavailable to other airlines.

Major GAO findings were:
o FAA's current 80% use it or lose it slot criteria allows airlines avoid scheduling a flight for each of their slots, but instead are able to selectively shift schedules around and not fully utilize their slots holdings.

o FAA process for reviewing airlines slot utilization do not provide sufficient assurance that FAA can identify instances when airlines do not meet the 80 percent utilization.

o FAA allowing airlines to collectively pool their slots, rather than hold individual slots, further contributes to slots going unused and provides an advantage to airlines with large slot holdings.

o Some existing capacity even when operated tend to be scheduled in such a way that available capacity is used inefficiently limiting passenger growth. GAO found that flights operated at slot controlled airports tend to be scheduled with smaller aircraft and slot-controlled airports also tend to have certain routes that are flown at higher daily rates with lower passenger load factors.


Ultimately, the GAO suggest the FAA to tighten up control over slot use, and attempt to free capacity at these airports to encourage access by new-entrant airlines that could offer new service or lower fares.


Full report available at:
http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648219.pdf

=

[Edited 2012-10-09 10:57:18]
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HPRamper
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:38 pm

Quoting LAXintl (Thread starter):
FAA's current 80% use it or lose it slot criteria allows airlines avoid scheduling a flight for each of their slots, but instead are able to selectively shift schedules around and not fully utilize their slots holdings.

This is a big deal and I'm kind of surprised it took this long to be addressed.

"Use it or lose it" should be just that. I don't think there is any valid argument for an airline to sit on 20% of their slots unused when other airlines can't even get the frequency they desire. If nothing else, airlines who squat on unused slots should have to pay a penalty for every slot that goes unused - maybe even to the other tenant airlines of the airport.
 
flyingcat
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:54 pm

Get ready for the lawsuits if the FAA tries to do something. I think they should. Slots are a double edged sword and markets such as LGA should not be RJ city.
 
LAXintl
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:06 pm

80/20 rule is pretty common.

Its what most global airports have and is part of the IATA scheduling guidelines.

I think where is looks bad in GAO's eyes is that instead of each slot being measured on its own performance, the bigger airlines are able to get away with using a macro measurement metric that encompasses their entire holdings.
In other words an airline with 100 slots, with clever scheduling only needs to have operated 80 or more consistently to have achieved the threshold. Such tightening of the requirements down to the micro level of each individual slot is doable in my opinion.

But to me a bigger disgrace however is the slot sitting which the GAO points to with carrier using smaller sized aircraft (lots of RJs) on frequent service to hang onto slots. Surely the consumer could be served better by having a 150 seat 737 use a slot then a 50 RJ. Lots of potential capacity growth is lost by keeping slots busy with small planes carrying minimal loads.
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jcwr56
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:28 pm

But in regards to a "slot" it's a specific landing or take off time, it has nothing to do with what type of aircraft is needed to fly. Access is just that, the ability to enter a market. Placing rules on what type of aircraft you'd be forced to operate is going beyond what the competition rules currently state.

If you really want new entrants to have access, one also must make sure you have access to ticket counters, gates and operational facilities. Just because you get the ability to land sometimes doesn't mean you have the ability to work the flight.

Also, which the report doesn't address are ORD and SFO which are still under FAA monitoring. Schedules are still required to be submitted and if the FAA feels there are congestion periods, they have the ability to remedy if need be.

Finally, the interest of the FAA might not always being inline with the interest of the local airport authority and the airlines.
 
tdscanuck
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:43 am

Quoting HPRamper (Reply 1):
I don't think there is any valid argument for an airline to sit on 20% of their slots unused when other airlines can't even get the frequency they desire.

You can't go with 100% because no airline can hold their schedule 100%. Should an airline lose a slot because an airplane went tech or the weather goes south? You can argue that maybe it should be 10% instead of 20% but there absolutely is a valid argument for it to not be 100%.

Tom.
 
HPRamper
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:43 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 5):
You can't go with 100% because no airline can hold their schedule 100%. Should an airline lose a slot because an airplane went tech or the weather goes south? You can argue that maybe it should be 10% instead of 20% but there absolutely is a valid argument for it to not be 100%.

Then that defeats the purpose of a slot. A slot should be per scheduled flight, not per actual flight. An aircraft going on mx should have nothing to do with it.
 
deltal1011man
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:49 am

Quoting flyingcaT (Reply 2):

yes...just what this industry needs. a ton of 737s, flying RJs markets. Why don't we just tell the airlines to take a bunch of money and burn it.

smh. I personally wish the government would stop pushing airlines to lose money and do a better job of passing cost onto the customer. (and not taking its from employees.) More consolidation will end up with larger aircraft......
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tdscanuck
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:18 pm

Quoting Deltal1011man (Reply 7):
yes...just what this industry needs. a ton of 737s, flying RJs markets. Why don't we just tell the airlines to take a bunch of money and burn it.

Slot control (at least in the US) is only used at very congested airports. They're not RJ markets. They have RJ's because the airlines are trying to fill up their slots to avoid losing them. From a cost standpoint, absent slot controls, they'd be running lower frequency with larger aircraft.

Tom.
 
Passedv1
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:35 pm

I know the FAA tried this and failed, but I think the best soution is a market solution, make the airilnes bid for their slots. This would serve two purposes, it would favor the operating of larger aircraft with less frequency and it would favor markets where people most wanted to fly to LGA by being willing/able to pay the most. "Commons" problems are best solved with market solutions and this report is a perfect example of how regulating the resource (in this case, slots) usually just creates more problems, has the government choosing winners and losers and doesn't fulfill what shold be the ultimate goal of getting the people who need to get to LGA the most, to LGA.

[Edited 2012-10-10 13:36:55]
 
Pyrex
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:14 am

If they are concerned about competition in airports, why not force the PANYNJ to divest of at least one of the three airports it controls in the NYC area?
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michman
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:40 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 8):
Slot control (at least in the US) is only used at very congested airports. They're not RJ markets. They have RJ's because the airlines are trying to fill up their slots to avoid losing them. From a cost standpoint, absent slot controls, they'd be running lower frequency with larger aircraft.

Sorry, disagree. There are many smaller markets that want direct flights to these large markets and will pay the price premium for the RJ flights. I don't think it is fair to force the smaller markets to connect through a hub if they can't fill anything larger than an RJ.
 
corinthians
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:56 am

Quoting PassedV1 (Reply 9):
I know the FAA tried this and failed, but I think the best soution is a market solution, make the airilnes bid for their slots. This would serve two purposes, it would favor the operating of larger aircraft with less frequency and it would favor markets where people most wanted to fly to LGA by being willing/able to pay the most. "Commons" problems are best solved with market solutions and this report is a perfect example of how regulating the resource (in this case, slots) usually just creates more problems, has the government choosing winners and losers and doesn't fulfill what shold be the ultimate goal of getting the people who need to get to LGA the most, to LGA.

I think slot auctions for new slots and slots pertaining to new route authorities (like when they become available to, say, Brazil or China) as a concept has some merit. Especially with the latter. Let the airlines duke it out on who can get the new frequency to Brazil.

The way the FAA and DOT tried to do their plan was illegal. They just pushed their plan through to test out some idiotic game theory, nothing more. And they wasted taxpayer dollars doing it. The FAA is not allowed to generate revenue without Congressional approval. The GAO, who wrote this particular report, stated this as well. The FAA tried to get Congressional approval through their budget proposal, but they were shut down. They pushed it through anyways, regardless of the illegality. The airlines and Port Authority sued and Congress ordered them to stop. They refused to listen. In the end, the courts sided with the airlines and the DOT and FAA looked like a bunch of fools. Congress passed another bill afterwards banning the FAA from raising revenue through "market-based" initiatives.

This idea wouldn't have worked regardless. It assumes airlines are rational stakeholders, but they're like people and act irrationally. How do you know they would have been encouraged to use larger aircraft? And just because an aircraft is larger doesn't mean there will be less flights. That's the theory, but reality would have been different. You'd still have the same number of flights. The only thing guaranteed is that whatever extra cost the airlines would have incurred from obtaining these slots would have been passed on to the consumer, who would be the ultimate loser. All taxes do this and this plan was nothing more than a tax. And what would the revenue have been used for anyways?

And then you have the headache of the airlines claiming the slots as their property and listing them as assets and having the government confiscate them. That's a serious breach of property rights and something you only see in dictatorships like China. Not to mention that the airlines essentially own the terminals. Would they allow a new entrant who is using their old slot authority in? Hardly likely. There was no thought or planning that went into the FAA's idea and they just pushed it for the sake of it being a "market" solution. When in reality breaching property rights is hardly a characteristic of "markets".

Quoting Pyrex (Reply 10):

If they are concerned about competition in airports, why not force the PANYNJ to divest of at least one of the three airports it controls in the NYC area?

The Cities of NY and Newark own the airports and lease them to the Port Authority, who has a very long-term lease. The PA essentially owns them now. Again, taking away one of their properties is a serious breach of rights. If we start here, where does it end? Now if the FAA buys one of the airports, that's another story...

Quoting michman (Reply 11):
Sorry, disagree. There are many smaller markets that want direct flights to these large markets and will pay the price premium for the RJ flights. I don't think it is fair to force the smaller markets to connect through a hub if they can't fill anything larger than an RJ.

Totally agree. Flights to these small markets are often some of the biggest profiteers for these airlines.
 
tdscanuck
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:54 am

Quoting PassedV1 (Reply 9):
I know the FAA tried this and failed, but I think the best soution is a market solution, make the airilnes bid for their slots.

A market solution is the correct method; as others described the FAA botched the implementation completely but the theory of making it a competitive market was solid.

Quoting michman (Reply 11):
Sorry, disagree. There are many smaller markets that want direct flights to these large markets and will pay the price premium for the RJ flights. I don't think it is fair to force the smaller markets to connect through a hub if they can't fill anything larger than an RJ.

Everybody wants direct flights from their small O market to the big D markets. There is nothing unique at slot-controlled airports about this. What's unique at the slot-controlled airports is that you can't accommodate all the O-D demand as direct flights because of airport capacity limits. It's absolutely fair to force the smaller markets through a hub because they're taking a slot away from what would otherwise be a larger aircraft serving some other O market with more demand.

Right now, the airlines sub-optimize their route networks with respect to O-D demand to the slot controlled airports in order to protect the slots. The small markets are rewarded at the expense of the bigger ones...yes, the smaller markets get happier, but the net result is overall negative.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
This idea wouldn't have worked regardless. It assumes airlines are rational stakeholders, but they're like people and act irrationally.

If you go with that theory, then markets shouldn't work anywhere. Yet they do. They do have missteps, but they're more efficient than any other method we've figured out when there's a competitive environment. And this case is certainly a competitive environment.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
How do you know they would have been encouraged to use larger aircraft?

We don't know that. But the whole point of a market mechanism is that we don't *need* to know that. The airlines will do whatever makes them the most profit, which will be whatever their customers most want them to do. And, as the customers, we should want the airlines doing what we most want them to do.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
And just because an aircraft is larger doesn't mean there will be less flights.

True, although without a major demand shift (for which there isn't really any reason to suspect) the airlines would either drop load factor or frequency, or some combination, or they'd be leaving money on the table.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
You'd still have the same number of flights.

Maybe...with market mechanisms, it's almost impossible to tell. The most likely scenario is larger aircraft, some fewer flights (but not in direct proportion to the gauge increase), and more airlines.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
The only thing guaranteed is that whatever extra cost the airlines would have incurred from obtaining these slots would have been passed on to the consumer, who would be the ultimate loser.

That only happens if consumers are perfectly price in-elastic...since they're not, especially at the slot controlled airports, the airlines will have to absorb some extra cost themselves.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 12):
All taxes do this and this plan was nothing more than a tax.

This is a common, and thoroughly incorrect, misconception about taxes. Not all taxes result in a cost shift to consumers, especially when the point of the "tax" is to internalize an externality...right now the airlines are getting something of value (a slot) without actually paying what it's worth. A market mechanism establishes a price and a competitive mechanism for what a slot is worth and then gives it to whoever thinks they can make the best use of it.

Tom.
 
deltal1011man
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:08 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 8):

Slot control (at least in the US) is only used at very congested airports. They're not RJ markets. They have RJ's because the airlines are trying to fill up their slots to avoid losing them. From a cost standpoint, absent slot controls, they'd be running lower frequency with larger aircraft.

so what LCC or any other airline wanted all those slots at LGA that Delta got from US?
Who contracted US about buying them and wanted to fly nothing but mainline.....?


......give you a hint......no one. (but still. Its cool. Keep making airlines lose money. good plan.)
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compensateme
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:17 am

Quoting Deltal1011man (Reply 14):
so what LCC or any other airline wanted all those slots at LGA that Delta got from US?
Who contracted US about buying them and wanted to fly nothing but mainline.....?


......give you a hint......no one. (but still. Its cool. Keep making airlines lose money. good plan.)

LOL. US never put the slots up for sale -- DL had want they wanted, which was "excess" slots at DCA, which DL acquired when it merged with NW.
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deltal1011man
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:32 am

Quoting CompensateMe (Reply 15):

LOL. US never put the slots up for sale -- DL had want they wanted, which was "excess" slots at DCA, which DL acquired when it merged with NW.

oh so US wouldn't take money for slots? Atlanta is the place that has working phones?

give me a break. No one *really* wanted them. 125 LGA slots on nothing but 737 sized aircraft is a fast way to burn money. (and trust me....I'd love nothing more than to see nothing but mainline....but even I'm not that damn dumb)
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compensateme
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:59 am

Quoting Deltal1011man (Reply 16):
oh so US wouldn't take money for slots? Atlanta is the place that has working phones?give me a break. No one *really* wanted them.

No one "*really*" wanted them yet B6 bid ~$4M per slot pair (in the auction for the divested slots). If US truly didn't want the slots & was willing to accept cash for them, they would've attempted to do so long ago.

Fact is, they held out until they were offered something they valued - ownership of the ex-NW/ex-EA slot portfolio.

Quote:
but even I'm not that damn dumb

...
Don't make it easy on me...
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corinthians
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:07 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
Everybody wants direct flights from their small O market to the big D markets. There is nothing unique at slot-controlled airports about this. What's unique at the slot-controlled airports is that you can't accommodate all the O-D demand as direct flights because of airport capacity limits. It's absolutely fair to force the smaller markets through a hub because they're taking a slot away from what would otherwise be a larger aircraft serving some other O market with more demand.

Right now, the airlines sub-optimize their route networks with respect to O-D demand to the slot controlled airports in order to protect the slots. The small markets are rewarded at the expense of the bigger ones...yes, the smaller markets get happier, but the net result is overall negative.

Then you have to rescind Congressional laws that mandate a certain number of slots to serve small markets. And who is to say the result is negative? Small markets benefit from these flights and airlines charge a premium for them and they're usually profitable.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
If you go with that theory, then markets shouldn't work anywhere. Yet they do. They do have missteps, but they're more efficient than any other method we've figured out when there's a competitive environment. And this case is certainly a competitive environment.

Not a theory, but a fact. Humans are irrational. And unbridled markets usually end up as monopolies. How is that competitive, efficient and beneficial? Competitive environments only exist because of certain regulations that prevent monopolies.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
We don't know that. But the whole point of a market mechanism is that we don't *need* to know that. The airlines will do whatever makes them the most profit, which will be whatever their customers most want them to do. And, as the customers, we should want the airlines doing what we most want them to do.
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
True, although without a major demand shift (for which there isn't really any reason to suspect) the airlines would either drop load factor or frequency, or some combination, or they'd be leaving money on the table.
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
Maybe...with market mechanisms, it's almost impossible to tell. The most likely scenario is larger aircraft, some fewer flights (but not in direct proportion to the gauge increase), and more airlines.

Not at all and Heathrow is case and point. Heathrow is capped at 480,000 movements a year. It's currently full and there can be no new entrants there. Furthermore, to encourage the use of bigger aircraft, the BAA has a "market-based" congestion pricing scheme. What did this do? Sure, the airlines shifted to bigger planes, but kept their slots and this didn't decrease the number of aircraft movements. LHR is still the most congested airport in the world, much worse than the slot-controlled airports in the US. Furthermore, bigger planes means greater separation between them when taking off and landing. Delays get even worse. Market-based initiatives have been a failure at Heathrow. There are hardly any domestic flights left and the airport is starting to lose some international destinations. This has resulted in the airport losing competitiveness to other European airports, like CDG, FRA and AMS (other slot controlled airports, but they don't use market initiatives and they smartly realized that increasing physical capacity was the way to go). The BAA now knows the only solution is to increase capacity to remain competitive rather that using market tricks. Whether or not they increase capacity is another story, but they at least acknowledge that this is the only way forward.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
That only happens if consumers are perfectly price in-elastic...since they're not, especially at the slot controlled airports, the airlines will have to absorb some extra cost themselves.

Since airlines are a profit-based entity, they won't absorb the costs if it affects their bottom line, especially since airline profits are razor thin even during the best of times. They'll just pass them on to the consumer...like every other business. And consumers will just pay the extra costs because they have to if they want to fly. They won't have any choice. We're doing it now and airlines are charging more and more to fly, not just in slot controlled airports. But this is kind of like how I have to pay more to take the Long Island Railroad during peak hours. I don't want to, but I have no choice because of my work hours.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
This is a common, and thoroughly incorrect, misconception about taxes. Not all taxes result in a cost shift to consumers, especially when the point of the "tax" is to internalize an externality...right now the airlines are getting something of value (a slot) without actually paying what it's worth. A market mechanism establishes a price and a competitive mechanism for what a slot is worth and then gives it to whoever thinks they can make the best use of it.

I still don't see how this tax would have benefited consumers. It was just a revenue collecting scheme for the FAA. As for the airlines getting the value for nothing, well, whose fault was that? This is how it is now and we have to deal with it. I agree in theory about using a market mechanisms to determine the value of a new slot that is not held by someone else, but what the FAA tried to do by confiscating and then reselling was just plain wrong, illegal and would not have been a benefit in any way.
 
corinthians
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:17 am

Quoting CompensateMe (Reply 17):
No one "*really*" wanted them yet B6 bid ~$4M per slot pair (in the auction for the divested slots). If US truly didn't want the slots & was willing to accept cash for them, they would've attempted to do so long ago.

They weren't really allowed to sell them considering the current rules are temporary and doesn't allow a secondary market. The FAA made an exception this time.

I think B6 and Westjet totally overpaid for those slots. I actually respect both airlines because they're well-managed financially, but this was a dumb purchase. Another example of entities acting irrationally. And what did they use these slots for? Multiple flights to Toronto and Florida? How is that different that flying to Boston or DC? Seems similar to slot-sitting.

Quoting CompensateMe (Reply 17):
Fact is, they held out until they were offered something they valued - ownership of the ex-NW/ex-EA slot portfolio.

And they should be entitled to that considering how much they invested in the airport.

[Edited 2012-10-10 21:28:09]
 
deltal1011man
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:42 am

Quoting CompensateMe (Reply 17):
No one "*really*" wanted them yet B6 bid ~$4M per slot pair (in the auction for the divested slots). If US truly didn't want the slots & was willing to accept cash for them, they would've attempted to do so long ago.

and what did B6 do with them? woohoo more flights to Florida. What do you think would happen if the LCCs got all of those slots? Florida....a few more to Florida and then....some Florida flights. Losses...then losses...and hey...some more losses. Thats the problem.

Now, if some more capacity is taken out of the US market....maybe something can be done. Right now It would be RJs(and FWIW the LGA hub for Delta is doing great) to make money. At least with Delta its mostly large RJs and mainline.

If the GAO wants bigger airplanes then cut the slots in half. Or just bring back the CAB....... 
Quoting CompensateMe (Reply 17):

Fact is, they held out until they were offered something they valued - ownership of the ex-NW/ex-EA slot portfolio.

I would be shocked if someone couldn't have offered them just money.

Quoting corinthians (Reply 19):
Multiple flights to Toronto and Florida? How is that different that flying to Boston or DC? Seems similar to slot-sitting.

Can't be. LCCs don't do that.  
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ordbosewr
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RE: GAO To FAA: Enhance Competition At Slot Airports

Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:03 pm

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 13):
Maybe...with market mechanisms, it's almost impossible to tell. The most likely scenario is larger aircraft, some fewer flights (but not in direct proportion to the gauge increase), and more airlines.

and most likely a huge hit to RASM on these routes