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January 30, 2014

Southwest, JetBlue wins slots at Washington Reagan airport

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways said they have both won take-off and landing slots at Washington D.C.’s Reagan airport that American Airlines was forced to give up as part of its merger with US Airways.

The Dallas-based carrier said the slots will allow Southwest to fly 27 additional flights out of the airport that is closest to the White House and Congress.

“Reagan has long been a convenient but high-fare airport,” said Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly. “Southwest plans to change that by bringing much needed competition to the nation's Capitol.”

To gain U.S. Justice Department approval for their merger, American and US Airways agreed to give up 52 takeoff and landing slots at Reagan and 17 at New York's LaGuardia Airport. It also gave up rights and interests to two gates each at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles and Miami.

JetBlue said it plans to add 12 new roundtrip flights to Reagan and has reached a deal with American to permanently transfer the other eight Reagan slots that it had been leasing from American. With the new slots, JetBlue said it will have 30 daily roundtrip flights out of Reagan.

“JetBlue has already had a major impact at Reagan National in just a few short years with its everyday low fares, such as in the key business market to Boston, where since our entry in 2010, average fares have been reduced 31% and traffic has nearly doubled, soaring 93%,” said JetBlue senior vice president of government affairs Rob Land.

It is unclear how much the two airlines paid for the slots. In 2011, JetBlue paid $5 million per slot pair at Reagan when it was awarded slots as part of a slot swap deal between Delta Air Lines and US Airways.

American declined to comment on the auction process. A winner has not been announced for five other slots at Reagan that American had to give up.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the divestiture of American's LaGuardia slots to Southwest and Virgin America. Southwest received 11 slots, and Virgin America six. 

-Andrea Ahles

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