Southwest Airlines has mentioned LaGuardia as a possible destination for its Boeing 737-800s scheduled for delivery next year.
In late 2010 Southwest converted 20 of its 737-700 orders to the -800 variant, and plans to take delivery of the first -800 during the first quarter of 2012.
In a filing with US regulators protesting the slot swap between US Airways and Delta Air Lines at Washington National and LaGuardia airports Southwest explained it operates its current LaGuardia slots with the 137-seat -700s, "and would continue to use these aircraft, possibly in combination with 175-seat B737-800 model aircraft" for "its LGA [LaGuardia] operations in the future".
The disclosure that it might place the -800s at LaGuardia was part of a broader argument by Southwest that the creation of hubs by US Airways and Delta at National and LaGuardia would "squander public resources" by using those slots inefficiently with smaller aircraft.
Southwest filed comments with regulators after US Airways and Delta won tentative approval for US Airways to transfer 132 slots to Delta at LaGuardia and for Delta to allow US Airways to take 42 of its slots at National. Part of the tentative approval was a requirement for the divestiture of eight slot pairs at National and 16 at LaGuardia.
Citing a study it commissioned to examine the slot swap, Southwest told regulators that Delta's average seat departure at LaGuardia "has already sunk to 105, with more than half (54%) of its departures conducted with small aircraft".
Using information drawn from its commissioned study Southwest argued that once Delta receives additional slots "its aircraft size will decline even further, mostly likely emulating Continental's domestic hub at Newark, where its average aircraft size is 91 seats, and turboprop and regional jet flights account for nearly 64% of Continental's total operations".
Southwest concludes at Washington National, "the under-utilisation of slots is even worse, with US Airways operating only 33% of its departures with mainline aircraft, and operating an average aircraft size of only 83 seats".
To combat what it deems as an inefficient use of slots Southwest strongly urged regulators to mandate "significantly larger divestitures than proposed by the applicants".
The US Department of Transportation is in the process of reviewing comments filed regarding the proposed slot swap.