(Reuters) - Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) plans to bid aggressively for takeoff and landing rights at Reagan National Airport near Washington, as it looks to bring more competition to the nation's capital, a senior company executive said.
The slots are coming up for sale as American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) makes divestitures required under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that allowed AMR and US Airways to merge.
"We are very interested in picking up as many DCA (Reagan National) slots as we can," Robert Jordan, Southwest's executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in an interview at the carrier's Dallas headquarters on Tuesday.
He said Southwest needs a critical mass of slots to have an effect on fares at the airport. Southwest, which bought AirTran in 2011, said it currently has 32 slots at Reagan National.
"We need a meaningful number of slots to be able to compete effectively at Reagan," Jordan said. "We don't need 10; we need 50 or 60 or 70. We're going to be aggressive in terms of bidding."
American and US Airways agreed to give up 104 takeoff and landing slots, or 52 pairs, at Reagan National and LaGuardia airports, along with gates at airports in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas. JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) has also expressed interest in acquiring slots at Reagan National.
Jordan said he didn't know when the Reagan National slots would be sold.
Last week, Southwest agreed to buy 22 of the 34 slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport that American and US Airways are giving up under the Justice Department settlement. Virgin America was also cleared to buy LaGuardia slots.
Jordan said Southwest would use some of the LaGuardia slots it is acquiring to provide direct flights from Dallas to New York. He said the carrier would disclose the new flights it plans to offer from LaGuardia in the near future.
Jordan said Southwest would also like to bid for more gates at Dallas Love Field, an airport where Southwest is already the dominant airline.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Dallas; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)