Should airlines be allowed to trade slots?

Whose slots are they, anyway?

That’s a fair question, given airlines’ recent efforts to swap slots – government permission to take off and land at a particular time – in Washington and New York.

You may not realize it, but slots can affect how much you pay for a flight. And the decisions made about landing permissions are hardly abstract. They will almost certainly have a lasting effect on competition and airfares, experts predict.

Catching a plane from a slot-controlled airport can be pricey. Fliers from Washington’s slot-limited Reagan National Airport paid an average fare of $373 for the first quarter of 2010, the latest period for which figures are available. At slot-restricted Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., the average fare was $423. By comparison, the average domestic airfare was just $328.

The reason? Slots – specifically a lack of them – drive airfares higher because competition is capped.
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