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Challenges for Newark airports runway king United
2013/2/25 8:55:21

Since Continental Airlines combined with United Airlines in 2010, the new United has given little ground to newcomers at its acquired fortress hub in Newark. But the competition could become tougher in the months and years ahead, as an American Airlines-US Airways merger challenges Uniteds hegemony in the region and as Virgin America prepares to start West Coast routes in the spring.


United handled 70.8 percent of the passengers at Newark Liberty International Airport in 2012, little changed from the year before, according to monthly traffic reports from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Its dominance endured despite relinquishing gates to low-cost Southwest Airlines to satisfy antitrust authorities and losing business during the summer from miscues related to merger integration.


"I think the merger has gone reasonably well," said Susan M. Baer, director of aviation at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "Like any merger of two very large companies with different cultures, different reservations systems and different labor agreements, it takes awhile."


Leading carrier

United Continental Holdings, parent of United Airlines, dominates Newark Liberty International Airport, handling 70.8 percent of passengers in 2012. Southwest Airlines, which started operating at Newark in March 2011, ranked fifth with 3.4 percent. Here are year-end passenger counts for the top six carriers at New Jersey’s biggest airport.


Airline     Passengers    Market share

United Airlines       24,074,119     70.8%

Delta Air Lines       1,505,932       4.4%

JetBlue Airways     1,326,683       3.9%

US Airways    1,254,879       3.7%

Southwest Airlines 1,151,307       3.4%

American Airlines   1,050,556       3.1%

Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey


United remains the top carrier in the New York City market, where it carried 27.5 million passengers in and out of the region in 2012, compared with Delta Air Lines 22.5 million, JetBlue Airways 14.5 million and Americans 14 million.


That competitive edge in what is one of the worlds largest air-travel markets is being challenged, however, as Chicago-based Uniteds biggest trans-Atlantic hub braces for stronger competition from John F. Kennedy International Airport and La Guardia, particularly for corporate travelers, with the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger.


The combining of American Airlines and US Airways, announced this month, would be likely to take a couple of years to play out. But when it did, the result would be a larger, more competitive airline that will go head to head with United, currently the worlds largest. And it would be likely to target high-yielding corporate business in the New York metropolitan area.


Newark Liberty is served by about two-dozen airlines, and it handled 34 million passengers last year — 317,000 more than in 2011.


Domestic-passenger traffic climbed nearly 3 percent in 2012, driven in part by gains by Southwest and JetBlue.


This spring, Virgin America begins three-times-a-day Newark-Los Angeles and Newark-San Francisco service.


Virgin "will increase competition on the transcontinental routes," said Baer. "It has been flying at Kennedy for a while, and we understand that customers have been very pleased with them."

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