Case #781.0

Department of Transportation and Airport Landing Slots

Publication Date: January 01, 1987
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The ability of commercial airlines to fly their planes means little without a space in which to land them. In some congested US airports, the times and spots for landing are known as "landing slots" and have been assigned to airlines at the nation's four busiest airports since 1969. For the first decade of this slot system, assignments were made with little controversy by the airline industry committee. Airline deregulation, however, increased demand for slots in the 1980s and vastly increased pressure on the committees apportioning the slots. An idea emerged to resolve competing demands: the FAA could create a market for landing slots and allow demand to set the price and ration the resource. This case tells the story of Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole's deliberations over whether to create a landing slot market. It describes options ranging from auction to "grandfathering," allowing airlines that had based investment decisions on a stockpile of slots to avoid corporate disruption.

Learning Objective:
The case raises issues concerning the appropriateness of a market for allocating resources where concerns other than sheer efficiency are important. It illustrates, too, the difficulties in designing a policy that will allow for transition from one system to another. It has been used in an intermediate microeconomics curriculum to illustrate market operations issues. There is an epilogue for this case.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Vlad Jenkins
Faculty Lead:
Jose Gomez-Ibanez
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United states