US-American defiant on JetBlue's call to divest slots at Washington National

Washington DC
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The merged carrier between US Airways and American Airlines will "absolutely not" give up slots at Washington National Airport, following a call from competitor JetBlue for regulators to force the combined airline to divest them.

"Absolutely not," says US Airways chief executive Doug Parker at the US Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit today in response to questions. "We don't expect to surrender slots."

US Airways and American announced a merger agreement on 14 February, which the airlines expect to close in the third quarter after it secures approval from US regulators.

US Airways strengthened its presence at Washington National after acquiring 42 additional slot pairs from Delta Air Lines in 2011.

The proposed merger prompted JetBlue to raise concerns in a letter to New York state senator Charles Schumer last week, in which the New York-based airline says a merged US-American would lead to monopolisation of the slots at National.

JetBlue, which has proposed that regulators force US-American to divest slots, said in its letter that the merged carrier would control 67% of the slots at National.

Parker disputes JetBlue's numbers today, saying that half of US Airways' seats out of Washington National were to small communities that required the air service.

"If we divest, we will divest those that provide the least utility to the airline," says Parker, adding that these small communities will lose service as a result.

Parker does not believe that the competition for slots will become a legal issue, but says: "If people try to make it a policy issue, it will be a very bad policy."