Ultra-low-cost-carrier Spirit Airlines has won the rights to operate 16 peak-hour flights at Newark-Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, from the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The rights were previously held by Southwest Airlines, which discontinued service at the airport in 2019.

Last September, the DOT issued a notice to the Federal Register that highlighted its proposal to open up 16 peak-time slots at the airport to budget airlines.

Spirit Airlines beat JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines to secure the rights from the DOT.

JetBlue applied for all 16 of the slots, while Alaska Airlines requested four of the timings.

The latest move from the DOT is aimed at boosting competition as well as reducing delays and cancellations at the airport.

The selection of Spirit Airlines is said to factor in the company’s ability to offer what will likely be the lowest fares.

Furthermore, the carrier is said to be best placed to offer competition with all 16 slots, in line with the Department of Justice’s ‘original competition remedy’.  

In a statement, the DOT said: “Today’s decision provides certainty to carriers that have been operating at Newark using temporary, ad hoc timings made available while other carriers reduced service during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Given the Department’s concern over the recent airline cancellations, delays, challenges with customer service and other operational disruptions that have hurt travellers, the Department is requiring Spirit, as a condition of accepting the timings, to report additional data on disruptions facing their airline customers and its ability to provide them with accommodations.

“These reporting requirements will enable the Department to monitor Spirit’s ability to deliver on its customer commitment and permit the Department to better quantify the financial impact of operational disruptions on travellers.”