Southwest Airlines has reiterated its interest in slots at Washington National airport, and expects slots to be divested if the US Airways-American Airlines merger is approved eventually.
The airline's chief executive Gary Kelly says he is "reasonably confident" that slots will become available with the assumption that the merger goes through. "If there is an opportunity to bid, we will certainly take advantage of the bidding," he adds, speaking during the airline's third quarter earnings call today.
Observers expect that the combined US Airways and American Airlines would have to relinquish slots at Washington National if their merger is approved. The Department of Justice sued in August to block the merger and is scheduled to go to trial against the airlines in November.
While Kelly says Southwest has not had any talks with any parties regarding the merger or divestiture of slots at the airport, he says the airline will "absolutely" talk to anyone who would offer the airline a deal on the slots.
"I can't imagine the merger going forward without requiring divestiture [of slots]," says Kelly. However, he points out that even if slots were divested, Southwest would have to win them in a bidding process.
The carrier lost out in a slot auction in December 2011, when slots divested at LaGuardia and Washington National went to JetBlue and WestJet instead. That slot divestiture came about as a result of a slot swap between Delta Air Lines and US Airways. Kelly today reiterates the airline's interest in LaGuardia slots as well.
"The last time slots came up for bidding, we were outbid. So there's no guarantee that even if they were divested we will get any. But it's certainly something we are interested in," he says.