Breaking down American’s Washington National changes

The planned schedule changes that American Airlines will make at Ronald Reagan Washington National will take a bite out of the small- and medium-size cities US Airways added after its slot swap deal two years ago.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based Oneworld carrier announced on 15 January that it will end service to Augusta (Georgia), Detroit, Fayetteville (North Carolina), Fort Walton Beach, Islip, Jacksonville (North Carolina), Little Rock, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, Myrtle Beach, Nassau, Omaha, Pensacola, San Diego, Savannah, Tallahassee and Wilmington (North Carolina) from National airport once it divests all of the 52 slot pairs that it agreed to under the terms of its deal with the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

These routes use a total of 26 slot pairs, based on Innovata and airline schedules. The remaining 18 pairs will likely come from frequency changes as American and US Airways integrate their schedules, for example reducing duplicative service between National and Raleigh/Durham where they both offer seven peak day flights.

The timeline for the cuts has yet to be released.

Out of the 19 new routes that US Airways added from Washington National in 2012, only service to Birmingham (Alabama), Cincinnati, Des Moines, Fayetteville (Arkansas), Memphis, Ottawa and Toronto will remain – a network that more closely resembles the one American and US Airways would have had if they merged in November 2011, before the slot deal with Delta Air Lines.

Innovata FlightMaps Analytics

American-US Airways Washington National network, January 2014. (Innovata FlightMaps Analytics)

American-US Airways Washington National network after slot divestitures. (Flightglobal and Great Circle Mapper)

American-US Airways Washington National network after slot divestitures. (Flightglobal and Great Circle Mapper)

The changes were all but predetermined.

“We, will by definition with a scarce resource, continue to serve the [communities] that are most lucrative and reduce service to the ones that are the least lucrative as we should do as business people,” said then US Airways chairman and chief executive Doug Parker on what would happen if the carrier was forced to divest slots at National airport during a US Senate hearing in June 2013. “What that means is reduce service to small- and medium-size communities.”

Now as chief executive of American Parker is making good on those cuts.

The only step left in the cycle is what low-cost carriers will win the slot pairs – 44 will be auctioned in four bundles with JetBlue Airways keeping eight that it already leases – and what medium- to large-cities will see increased service to Washington National as a result.

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