Delta and US Airways Propose New York/Washington Slot Swap Again, and This Time It’ll Happen

Delta and US Airways are hoping that the third time’s a charm by putting the long-proposed slot swap in New York and Washington back on the table with some slight modifications. This time, I have to believe that it’s going to go through. They wouldn’t bother putting this out there if it was going to fail once again.

Here’s the plan this time around:

Delta US Airways Slot Swap Round 3

US Airways no longer wants the Japan slots it had wanted before, mostly because there is now an open skies agreement between the two countries and it doesn’t need to buy them. It also will no longer give up its terminal location in LaGuardia as before. Delta will get a few more slots in the deal, and US Airways gets a bunch of cash. Here’s the full rundown depending upon where you live:

For Washingtonians

  • Delta will give 42 slot pairs (1 slot pair = 1 departure + 1 arrival) to US Airways at National and US Airways will begin service to at least 15 new destinations. Back when US Airways first announced it would do this deal in 2009, it gave 15 new destinations it would serve, so I imagine it will be similar.
  • Delta will continue to serve its 7 (!) domestic hubs from National – which I assume are New York/JFK, Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, Minneapolis/St Paul, Cincinnati, and Salt Lake City along with the shuttle to LaGuardia and some “select” cities, whatever that means. Delta never gave us any inkling before, so we can only guess now.
  • This is pure speculation, but I would assume that US Airways will acquire more gates on the middle pier at National which would allow United to move to some old Delta gates on the south pier to be right next to Continental.
  • If needed, Delta will give an additional 8 slot pairs to be divested for use by airlines with limited or no service at National. US Airways would still end up with 42 new slot pairs regardless. I assume the feds will make this a requirement.

For New Yorkers

  • Delta will get a whopping 132 new slot pairs (up from the 125 in the first dealin the last deal, Delta would buy 125 but lease another 15 with the option to buy, so this is actually a decrease) at LaGuardia. We have no clue where they’ll go, but we can expect to see Delta replace US Airways on many of the airline’s current routes. Delta also says it will double the number of total destinations it serves, including some that aren’t currently served by US Airways.
  • Delta will use an all-jet fleet at LaGuardia instead of the turboprops that US Airways currently uses. Wanna guess where those jets are coming from? My guess is the obvious. (*cough*Memphis*cough*Cincinnati*cough*)
  • US Airways will give up 18 of the 20 gates in its terminal at LaGuardia (called Terminal C) to Delta. Delta will use those plus 11 in its current terminal (now Terminal D) for 29 in total. Delta will then build a connector between the two terminals so that it can operate as a single terminal from a passenger perspective. (They aren’t physically connected now.)
  • Delta will continue to run the Shuttle from LaGuardia to Boston and Washington from six gates in the Marine Air Terminal, which is a change from the previous plan to consolidate in one place.
  • US Airways will still have two gates in LaGuardia’s Terminal C along with 7 other parking spots from where it will run its operation have 6 gates once the terminal is reconfigured to add more spots plus 3 parking positions for regional jets. It will continue to have the Shuttle to Washington and Boston along with flights to Philly, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh but that’s it. The previous plan to keep Wilmington (who knows why) won’t happen.
  • Delta will take over the current US Airways Club at LaGuardia in Terminal C and turn it into a Sky Club to complement the existing club in Terminal D. US Airways will build a new, smaller lounge for its operation.
  • Delta (not US Airways) will give up 16 slot pairs at LaGuardia to new entrants if needed, and you can bet that will be the case.

On top of all this, US Airways will get a slot to fly to Sao Paulo in 2015, which is on top of another slot it already has acquired on its own. As mentioned above, the Tokyo slot that was previously included is gone since Japan and the US now have open skies. To make everything work out after these changes, Delta will drop $66.5 million into a US Airways bank account.

So why do I say this is a done deal? Because it has to be. US Airways and Delta had filed an appeal in the courts to force the feds to allow this to happen. As part of this new deal, the airlines are dropping the appeal. There has to have been a lot of backroom bargaining here. The feds must have given the green light behind the scenes or these airlines wouldn’t have bothered making another proposal. To me, the only question is who will get those divested slots and will the full amount be required.

As Delta and US Airways both make clear, things have changed a lot since the swap was first proposed nearly two years ago. Southwest has gone into LaGuardia on its own and its purchase of AirTran gives it more slots there as well as some at National for the first time. JetBlue has found its own way into National as well. So there is a lot more low cost airline penetration and connectivity to the rest of the country. It should be enough.

I’m actually surprised that Delta is willing to pony up 24 slots just to appease the feds here. But Delta has been foaming at the mouth around cementing its role in New York and this would be a huge step forward. It would also be a major slap at American. The new United and Delta will be the two biggest players in the New York area and American will have to figure out how it wants to respond, if it does at all.

I still like this swap a lot, and I think it should have been approved two years ago. Let’s hope that this is effectively a done deal at this point.

Updated 5/26 @ 1009a to reflect that I forgot about the previous deal to lease 15 slots to Delta at LaGuardia. Also received clarification from US Airways that the terminal will be reconfigured and it will still have 6 gates plus 3 parking positions at LaGuardia.

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