Southwest is ditching Newark airport. Will other flights cost more?

Updated Jul 25, 2019

If you’re flying in and out New Jersey’s biggest airport, it won’t be on Southwest anymore.

But that doesn’t mean big changes are coming to Newark Liberty.

The Dallas-based airline announced Thursday it will consolidate its New York City-area operations at LaGuardia Airport as of Nov. 3. While losing an airline can stoke fears of price increases, there are too many factors at play know how the loss will affect your wallet.

“We have to understand that this is a dynamic situation. Airlines don’t commit to a destination forever,” said Dr. Ahmed Abdelghany, the associate dean for research at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s business school. “Airlines are looking at what is the situation at nearby airports as well.”

Because Newark is so close to other major hubs in New York like LaGuardia or John F. Kennedy International, airlines must compete not just with the operator a few gates down, but with others across the river. And losing about 15 midway flights daily to destinations like Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Phoenix, Denver and Austin, will likely have a minimal impact, Abdelghany said.

Southwest’s departure leaves 33 other airlines at Newark, several of which offer service to Southwest’s destinations.

Existing airlines at Newark may eye up the vacancies left by Southwest, but in crowded airports like EWR, that isn’t always the best move, Abdelghany said.

Southwest chairman and CEO Gary C. Kelley said in a statement “financial results at Newark have been below expectations, despite the efforts of our excellent team at Newark.”

For a cheaper airline like Southwest, large hubs like Newark can be unprofitable: Spending long times taxiing in makes it harder to turn around a high volume of flights. Discount airline WOW Air abruptly shutdown in March, leaving a sudden vacancy at Newark.

Southwest said the 125 Newark employees can apply to relocate to other airports with strong customer demand, like LaGuardia.

The union representing many of the workers, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, said it hopes Southwest extends similar offers to subcontracted service workers, too, by asking vendors at LaGuardia to offer them positions.

The union also encouraged the airport to fill the vacant gate with an airline that uses “responsible companies” to provide subcontracted jobs.

“We urge the airline to ensure that its vendors provide good jobs and meaningful benefits for all impacted service workers regardless of their union affiliation,” the statement said. "When workers can afford to live in New Jersey, it supports the entire community.”

The decision comes amid construction of Terminal One, Newark Liberty’s $2.7 billion project transforming its oldest terminal into a sleek 1 million square-foot space with 33 gates and 3,000-vehicle parking garage. The Port Authority estimated the project will bring 23,000 jobs, $1.9 billion in wages and $4.6 million in economic activity.

The agency also has a $1.7 billion plan to extend the PATH train to the airport.

A Port Authority spokeswoman did not immediately provide comment on how Southwest’s departure impacts the project.

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