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Spirit Airlines gets chance to expand at busy Newark Airport

By Gregory Wallace, CNN

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has won the opportunity to expand its operations at the crowded Newark Airport — over complaints from dominant United Airlines that Spirit and its peers are clogging up operations.

The US Department of Transportation said Spirit will receive 16 peak-hour opportunities to take off or land planes at Newark Liberty International Airport.

The airport’s capacity, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, is scheduling 79 arrivals or departures per hour.

JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines were Spirit’s competitors for some or all of the spots.

“We’re pleased to see this process come to a conclusion, and we’ll continue to promote competition and offer affordable, high-value travel options for guests traveling in and out of the New York Metropolitan area,” Spirit spokesman Erik Hofmeyer told CNN.

Worst cancellation rate

Newark Airport has the worst cancellation rate among major airports, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics figures.

United, Spirit and others have been battling over who is to blame and how federal officials should handle the situation.

United uses Newark as a key hub and is dominant there, consuming — according to numbers crunched by Spirit — 70% of runway timings.

United recently said it would drop 50 flights daily from its schedule this summer to relieve pressure at the airport, but it plans to eventually return to its full schedule. The announcement does not require United to give up any Newark spots.

‘A crisis at EWR’

JetBlue is the second-largest carrier with about 11% of Newark passengers, according to the federal data. Spirit currently carries about 7% of passengers.

Spirit already increased its flying in and out of Newark but said it was using spots international airlines stopped using during the pandemic.

United said recently international carriers are returning, and that Spirit and JetBlue are “creating a crisis at EWR [Newark] and customers, especially United’s customers, are bearing the frustrations and the costs of the carriers’ reckless disregard for all other operations at the airport.”

The Transportation Department said it would require Spirit to provide additional information about it handles delays, cancellations and customer frustrations.

CNN reached out to United on Tuesday afternoon and had not received a response as of 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Top image: Spirit Airlines jet. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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