WestJet awaits decision on remaining Washington National slots

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WestJet is waiting for more information on whether it can compete for the five remaining slot pairs that American Airlines is divesting at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, says chief executive Gregg Saretsky.

“We’re still waiting to hear if there will be a process for the few remaining [slot pairs] and whether or not we will be invited to play in that,” he says during a 4 February call with analysts.

American Airlines and US Airways agreed to divest the slots along with five gates at Washington National as part of an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which allowed their merger to close on 9 December 2013.

The DOJ has indicated that the slots be awarded to low-cost carriers, which describes WestJet's business model. However, both WestJet and Air Canada have told investors in recent weeks that they understood only US domestic carriers could bid. Whether the remaining five slot pairs will also be limited to US carriers is unclear.

“We have expressed a strong interest in slots at Washington Reagan National airport, but have been precluded from participating in that auction to date,” says Saretsky. “The US authorities have decided that those slots are going to US carriers, and all but a couple of them have been handed out to two carriers, as you know, JetBlue and Southwest.”

Southwest Airlines announced last week that it had gained 27 of the 52 slot pairs available at Reagan, and JetBlue won 12 in addition to eight it already leased from American. Virgin America has also said that it is interested in expanding at the airport.