US Airways and Delta work out a trade

Posted by admin on August 12, 2009

Some interesting news today – US Airways has announced that it is going to swap slots with Delta and get some international routes from them as well. Under the terms of the deal, which is still pending regulatory approval, US Airways gains 42 pairs of slots at Washington’s Reagan Airport and will be able to start flying to Sao Paulo, Brazil from Charlotte and Tokyo from Phoenix. In return, Delta will get 125 pairs of slots at New York’s LaGuardia airport.

US Airways was quick to point out that the slots that Delta is getting are currently being used by the US Airways Express operation, and that mainline US Airways service (including the Shuttle) won’t be touched. Still, it’s possible that mainline traffic could take a hit if there’s less traffic being fed into LGA by the Express carriers, which will stop flying to 26 destinations from LaGuardia. And there will be around 300 layoffs at the airline’s Piedmont regional subsidiary.

But the airline also gets some interesting assets in return. US Airways will start serving some major destinations from Washington DC (Cincinnati, Montreal, and Miami, among others) as well as smaller cities (Savannah, Pensacola, Ithaca, and more). The airline also noted that it would boost the number of seats that it flies to Washington by using “larger dual-class jets.” And the deal also gives US Airways two key international routes. US Airways currently does not fly to Asia, and the airline has repeatedly delayed the start of Philadelphia-Beijing service. But Phoenix-Tokyo, which will be flown by Airbus A330s but not until 2012 at the earliest, would be a great way for the airline to offer another international connection at its western hub. US Airways will also launch Charlotte-Sao Paulo service next year.

Let’s look at Delta, which already has significant domestic and international operations across town at JFK. The airline’s press release notes that the airline will “build a hub operation at LaGuardia that will increase the number of customers served… without increasing congestion.” It’ll do the same thing that US Airways plans to do at Washington – operate larger planes. “In every slot where US Airways operates small turboprops today, Delta will operate larger jets,” said Delta. “These new markets and larger aircraft would allow more than two million additional passengers to transit LaGuardia each year without increasing the total number of takeoffs and landings… Many small- and medium-sized communities throughout upstate New York and New England will benefit from service upgrades where Delta will operate larger regional and mainline jets.”

The airline also plans to spend $40 million on a project to upgrade and rebrand the US Airways and Delta operations at LaGuardia, so it’s clear that they’re planning on making this a hub. At the same time, “Delta will continue to invest at its hub at New York’s leading international airport, John F. Kennedy International,” the airline said. So now the airline will be pursuing a rather interesting strategy of operation two hubs in the same city, one of which is primarily international and the other domestic. This could pose some interesting challenges; what happens to passengers seeking to connect between the two airports for an international or a domestic flight?

For more information, check out the US Airways press release here and the Delta release here.

photo by ChrisI1024 on Flickr

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