1664721959 Oops The Funny Reason American Airlines Lost JFK Slots

Oops: The Funny Reason American Airlines Lost JFK Slots – Mile At A Time

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are currently on trial as their Northeast Alliance is challenged by the Justice Department. On Friday, American executives made a rather startling revelation about why the airline lost some slots at JFK.

American forgot it had JFK slots, had them taken away

In the United States, New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) is one of the airports with the most slot restrictions. In order to fly to the airport, airlines must purchase take-off and landing slots and this is intended to control the airport’s capacity.

This was one of the arguments put forward in favor of the American-JetBlue alliance — American has claimed that it cannot compete in New York without JetBlue’s connection because the airline cannot acquire more slots. This led to an intriguing revelation – a while back the American lost slots at JFK simply forgot he had them.

In 2019, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an audit and found that American was underusing its slots at JFK. As a result, seven slots were taken away from American. Essentially, slots operate under a “use it or lose it” policy, which means that if you don’t use your slots, they will be taken away from you.

American had them taken away because they forgot to have them after the merger with US Airways. As American Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja described it:

“Accounting and combining slots after the merger was a manual process. There’s no good reason and I’m a little beside myself that it happened. It was for the worst of reasons, it makes us sound utterly ridiculous.”

Interestingly, at the time, both American and the FAA didn’t even seem to agree on how many JFK slots American had. After losing the seven slots, American thought it had 216 slots while the FAA thought American had 200 slots. The two organizations eventually agreed to allow American to keep 210 slots.

Oops The Funny Reason American Airlines Lost JFK SlotsJFK is a slot-controlled airport

My thoughts on Americans losing JFK slots

A few thoughts on Americans losing JFK slots because executives forgot they had them…

First off, you have to love the irony that this happened in court the same day it was announced that United Airlines will be pulling out of JFK due to the airline’s inability to get permanent slots. Here, United is desperately trying to expand at the airport, while American can’t even fathom how many slots it has at the airport.

Second, I didn’t realize how manual a process is for airlines to keep track of slots. Is that really how it works at most airports? One would think there would be an online portal accessible to both the FAA and the airlines that shows the exact number of slots etc. rather than American having to manually add the slots after the merger. That sounds more like a scavenger hunt for paper plane tickets than anything you’d expect to see in 2019 and beyond.

Finally, how can American in good conscience have an American AAdvantage mileage expiration policy when the airline can’t even keep track of their slots? People are supposed to keep track of their bank balance from a few thousand miles when American can’t even keep track of a slot that’s worth a lot more money?

Oops The Funny Reason American Airlines Lost JFK SlotsAmerican forgot it had slots at JFK

bottom line

While airport slots often change hands, it’s not usually because an airline simply forgot they had them and therefore didn’t use them. But that’s exactly what happened after the merger at American Airlines and US Airways, as the “manual process” of slot accounting was apparently too complicated.

What do you think of this revelation on American’s JFK Slots?

(Hat tip to David Slotnick)