American Airlines is still awaiting guidelines from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on how it will divest slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, even as it closes its merger with US Airways today.
“We’re still waiting for the ground rules on DCA,” Will Ris, senior vice-president of government affairs at the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier, tells Flightglobal at National today. “We’re done with LaGaurdia [but] we’re still waiting for the Justice department to give the ground rules on the DCA slots.”
American must give up 52 slot pairs at National to low-cost carriers (LCC), according to its settlement with the DOJ that was announced on 12 November. JetBlue Airways leases eight of those pairs.
The Justice department has indicated that it wants to auction the slot pairs in packages, says Ris. However, how many pairs will be in each package, who can bid and how the winners will be selected have yet to be disclosed.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) auctioned bundles of eight slot pairs at New York LaGuardia and National airports to LCCs in November 2011. The pairs were divested by Delta Air Lines and US Airways as part of their slot swap agreement.
Ris says that he expects the DOJ to provide clarity on the divestiture process before the Christmas and New Years holidays with the actual process likely beginning in January 2014.
“We’re just following orders,” he says.
JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America have all expressed interest in the slots. Delta, while not a LCC, has also said that it wants the pairs, however, it is unclear whether it will be allowed under the DOJ’s guidelines.
Southwest took 11 slot pairs and Virgin America six pairs that American divested at LaGuardia.
Scott Kirby, president of American and former president of US Airways, told Flightglobal earlier in December that the slots will come from US Airways' regional operations at National. He declined to say what flights or routes will be cancelled.
The new American will operate about 253 daily flights from National out of gates on the centre and north piers of terminal B/C following the divestitures, says Jay Jay Lavine, the carrier’s Washington DC station director.
She confirms that American will give up gates on National’s centre pier but says that how many and which ones have yet to be decided.
American and US Airways currently use all 12 of the gates on the centre pier, with Virgin America sharing one gate with the airlines. US Airways uses all 12 gates on the north pier.
The first customer facing changes at National will begin in March 2014, says Lavine.
“Everybody’s thrilled about the merger,” she says of the airlines’ employees at National.