ATLANTA/WASHINGTON Dec 4 Southwest Airlines
and Virgin American will buy the take-off and landing
slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport that US Airways Group Inc
and American Airlines must sell as part of their agreement to
merge, three sources said on Wednesday.
Last month, US Airways and American
agreed to divest 17 pairs of slots at LaGuardia, a busy airport
with limited capacity, as well as certain other assets, as part
of a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Justice
The sources, who asked not to be named to preserve business
relationships, did not say how many of the 17 pairs of slots
each airline would purchase. Terms of the sales are not known.
Southwest, US Airways and American declined to comment on
the question of LaGuardia slot pairs. Virgin America did not
return calls or email requesting comment.
In the deal made in November the two airlines also agreed to
give up 52 pairs of takeoff and landing slots at Reagan National
Airport, just outside Washington, D.C.
JetBlue has been expected to be interested in the
slots at Reagan National that it is currently leasing from
US Airways and American announced in February that they
planned to merge. The Justice Department sued to stop the deal,
saying it would lead to higher fares. The sides settled on Nov.
12 after the airlines agreed to a long list of divestitures.
In addition to slot sales, the airlines also agreed to give
up gates at five key airports: Boston Logan International
Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Dallas Love
Field, Los Angeles International Airport and Miami International
The Justice Department argued that the slot and gate sales
would give low cost competitors better access to some of the
country's busiest airports. Analysts, however, said that a
relatively small number of flights would be affected and any
change would be incremental.
The Justice Department selects which airlines are eligible
to buy the assets that the airlines must sell. It has said that
the gates at the five airports will be transferred on
"commercially reasonable terms: to the acquirers.
Large carriers Delta Air Lines and United were believed to
have been excluded from the sale.
In a side agreement with the Department of Transportation,
the airlines agreed to dedicate their commuter slots at Reagan
National to medium, small and non-hub cities.