Southwest plans to launch new LaGuardia flights by June

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Southwest Airlines is planning to launch six new daily flights from New York LaGuardia airport by June 2014, says its chairman and chief executive Gary Kelly.

He declines to comment on what cities the Dallas-based low-fare carrier will add to its LaGuardia roster but says that the flights will begin in May and June 2014, while speaking with Flightglobal at the monthly Wings Club luncheon in New York on 12 December.

One likely addition is Dallas Love Field, where Southwest can add flights to New York once the Wright Amendment is lifted in October 2014. Kelly says that it will “eventually, if not immediately” add flights on the route.

Wright limits flights to and from Love Field to within Texas, bordering states and Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri.

Southwest is buying the six slot pairs at LaGuardia from American Airlines, which must divest them under an agreement it reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for approval of its merger with US Airways. Southwest will also buy five pairs from the carrier that it already leases.

Virgin America agreed to buy the six remaining slot pairs at LaGuardia that American will divest.

Southwest remains committed to bidding on the 44 available slot pairs that American must release at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, says Kelly. He declines to put a value on the slots.

“We’ll try to do the best deal we can,” he says. “We’re not willing to go after slots at any price.”

The 44 pairs are expected to auctioned in bundles to low-cost carriers by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) following guidelines that the DOJ has yet to release. Bids from Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines and Virgin America are also expected.

A bundle of eight slot pairs at National were auctioned to JetBlue for just over $40 million in 2011, or about $5 million per pair.

Kelly declines to comment on whether the 2011 auctioned overvalued or undervalued slots at the airport.

Guidelines for the National slots auction are expected by the Christmas holiday with the process beginning in January 2014, American’s senior vice-president of government affairs Will Ris told Flightglobal earlier in December.