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New York’s JFK struggling to cope with recent rapid growth

Image: JFK International Airport
Growth is all about JetBlue at JFK: Last year it was responsible for one quarter of all traffic. Inset: The new terminal opens in 2009, so it’s a bit more congested than this right now. The FAA is considering congestion pricing

Map: New York’s other airportsThere is much heated debate in the US at present about the congestion at New York’s JFK airport. Airlines have been asked to voluntarily reduce capacity or else the FAA plans to implement its own measures which may include congestion pricing.

The problem has arisen because in 2006 New York’s three major airports of JFK, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia processed over 100 million passengers for the first time, up 4.3% on the year before. Traffic at JFK reached a record 42.6 million, while traffic at Newark also reached a new high of 35.7 million. La Guardia traffic was down slightly to 25.8 million.

Chart: Major New York Airports 1997 - 2006
Source: PANYNJ Annual Report

During the last 10 years JFK’s share of traffic in the New York region has climbed from 37% to nearly 41% while the airport’s total traffic has grown 36% since 1997 compared with traffic growth of 19% at La Guardia and 15% at Newark during the same period.

Traffic up 14% this year

The airport’s congestion problems have been exacerbated by double-digit growth in 2007, which currently stands at nearly 14% and reached as high as 20% in May.

Chart: New York JFK Seasonality
Source: PANYNJ

The fastest growing airline at the airport in recent years has been JetBlue. The airline only began operations from JFK as recently as February 2000 and yet by 2003 it had overtaken American Airlines to become the biggest airline at the airport. In 2006 it was responsible for over a quarter of all JFK’s traffic and had added 1.5 million passengers at the airport during the year.

Chart: New York JFK Top Airlines
Source: PANYNJ

American and Delta, along with their various subsidiaries and partner airlines, are the other two big players at JFK. As a major international gateway it is worth noting that four of the Top 10 airlines are from Europe, lead by British Airways.

Logo: Jet Blue airwaysJetBlue responsible for airport growth in 2006

Analysis of the top routes reveals that most actually experienced traffic reductions in 2006. The big exception was Boston where traffic more than doubled thanks to JetBlue’s expansion and introduction of its smaller Embraer 190 jets.

Chart: New York Top 15 Routes
Source: PANYNJ

JetBlue was responsible for most of the growth of 1.5 million passengers at JFK in 2006 but this was achieved primarily by expanding the route network rather than adding frequency on existing routes as the airline increased services from 30 to 45 routes during the year.

Boston showed the biggest passenger growth but new domestic routes to Portland, Austin, Richmond, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Washington and Raleigh/Durham each generated over 100,000 new passengers for the airline, while traffic to Burbank almost doubled from 225,000 to 421,000.

BA: Market leader on JFK’s busiest route

It may come as a surprise to see the biggest city destination is London with over 2.5 million passengers in 2006. Most of this traffic is to Heathrow, though Delta re-started flights to Gatwick in November 2006 and niche carriers Eos and MaxJet are competing for business traffic to Stansted. In terms of passenger market share and load factor in 2006 the leading airlines were:

Airline Market Share Load Factor
British Airways 37.0% 74.7%
American Airlines 26.3% 74.6%
Virgin Atlantic 21.7% 74.5%
Air India 6.3% 60.1%
United 4.2% 79.9%
Kuwait Airways 1.7% 57.9%
Maxjet 1.3% 60.4%
Eos 0.8% 60.1%
Delta 0.5% 75.7%
Source: Derived from US BTS data

Last week American Airlines re-started daily service to London Stansted after a 14-year gap. Next summer this will increase to double-daily.


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