United writes off $412 million after losing Newark bulwark

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Losing near-monopoly control over Newark Liberty International Airport is going to cost United Airlines $412 million, or $264 million after taxes.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced in April that it would lift all the restrictions at Newark, essentially opening it to as many flights and airlines that could secure gate space at the airport. The new flight rules go into effect at the end of October.

The FAA announcement arrived five months after the Department of Justice sued United to block it from acquiring additional slots at the airport, a major hub for the carrier just a few miles from New York City. The U.S. argued that United controlled about 900 of the 1,200 takeoff and landing authorizations allocated to the airport by the Federal Aviation Administration, while no other airline held more than 70.

That dominance, the government said, led to higher prices and fewer choices for fliers.

Newark had the highest average fares ($459) of the largest U.S. airports in the fourth quarter of 2015, the latest data available, from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. New York’s other long-haul airport — JFK — saw average fares of $417.

The April decision from the FAA, however, made legal action by the Justice Department moot.

The Chicago carrier laid out how much that decision will cost it in a regulatory filing late Tuesday.

Lower cost carriers like Allegiant Air and JetBlue Airways have already announced new flights out of Newark, including some that go head-to-head with United. Discounter Spirit Airlines has also expressed interest.

United had used the slots as part of its collateral for a 2013 loan from Chase Bank, which was tied to the sale of frequent flier miles to Chase for co-branded credit cards. United said the agreement has been amended to remove the Newark slots as collateral with no replacement required.


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