Slot swaps galore in New York and Washington, DC

When airports restrict access to their facilities – generally through the use of slot controls – those slots can become incredibly valuable.  Access to slots at London’s Heathrow airport have long been some of the most expensive out there, along with those at Narita, Washington National and New York’s LaGuardia.  Those last two are the subject of a number of trades and swaps this week amongst carriers there, with some major shifts in service coming as a result.

The first salvo in the swaps was news that Continental and AirTran are making a trade.  Continental is giving up six slots at Washington National and four at LaGuardia in exchange for ten slots back at Newark.  Those ten slots represent the entirety of AirTran’s schedule at Newark.  They’re ceding the market.  This is great for Continental as AirTran generally provided downward pressure on fares.  Plus it allows Continental to further strengthen their hold on their fortress hub in the New York area.

That trade is child’s play compared to the major deal that Delta and US Airways negotiated and announced today (US Announcement // DL Announcement).  Delta will be trading 42 slot pairs at Washington National to US Air in exchange 125 slot pairs at LaGuardia.  Delta will also be giving US Air some slots for service to Brazil and Japan.  And to top it all off, Delta is going to trade terminals with US Air at LaGuardia, with US Air moving all their operations to the Marine Air Terminal while Delta takes over the US Air terminal.

These changes are nothing short of huge.  US Air is slashing their US Express service from LaGuardia, removing 26 destinations from the map.  They’ll keep the Shuttle, as well as mainline service to Charlotte and Wilmington, NC and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, PA. 

Delta will be replacing the turboprop service that US Express runs with various jets – regional or otherwise – and will be turning LaGuardia into a true hub operation for the northeastern US.  Delta will be adding service to 30 cities across the region, including more than a dozen that are currently served by US Express.  They will also be constructing a connector between the two existing terminals – theirs and the US Air terminal – to make a single terminal capable of handling their operations. 

In Washington, US Air will be adding 15 new destinations, including replacing Delta service on several routes that are being cut.  And, similar to Delta’s efforts at LaGuardia, US Air claims that they will be increasing the average aircraft size to add additional passenger capacity in the same number of total slots.

In the end it does not appear that any cities that currently have service from either National or LaGuardia will be losing it, but I also haven’t seen all the details so I’m not positive on that.  Still, the changes in operations are quite significant, particularly the way Delta is converting LaGuardia into a true hub operation.  Losing the Marine Air Terminal will be a significant loss for the Delta Shuttle operations, but they’ve degraded those so much lately that it doesn’t really matter all that much.  And now US Air will have that incredibly convenient terminal.  Too bad they won’t really fly many places from there.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.