When last we met, Delta and US Airways were in the middle of negotiations on one of the largest airline operations reallocations in recent memory. The two carriers were going to be trading over 150 slot pairs at New York City’s La Guardia and Washington, DC’s National airports. But that was seven months ago and since then both the US Air pilots’ union and the FAA have had some comments about the proposed move. The FAA was insistent that some of the slots be given over to limited incumbent carriers or to new entrants at the two airports. As of yesterday it appears that some agreements have been reached to make the swaps happen.
Delta will be giving up 15 of its 125 new slot pairs at LaGuardia, selling five each to AirTran, Spirit Air and WestJet. WestJet would be a new entrant at LaGuardia while AirTran and Spirit are considered limited incumbents based on their relatively minimal operations there. Spirit currently operates 11 daily departures, mostly to their hub in Ft. Lauderdale; AirTrain operates 18 daily flights to five destinations, 9 of them are to their Atlanta Hub. WestJet currently serves the New York City area with service to Newark airport and it is not clear whether they intend to move that service to LaGuardia or operate to both facilities going forward.
In Washington, US Airways will receive 42 new slot pairs, of which five will be ceded to jetBlue as a new entrant to the market. jetBlue currently has significant operations at Dulles airport but no service into National and has previously expressed interest in starting service there should slots become available. That opportunity appears to be on the horizon for them.
This deal is still subject to approval from the FAA and such approval should not be assumed. Previously the FAA suggested that 20 of the LaGuardia slots and 14 of the National slots would need to be shed. The proposal from the airlines doesn’t quite meet those targets. Still, with the number of other carriers involved it does seem likely that the deal will be approved. Of course, the pilots might still find a way to interfere.
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