JetBlue: Limit merged airline’s DC flights

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JetBlue Airways is pushing for the federal government to limit the number of flights U.S. Airways and American Airlines can fly to Washington, D.C. Ronald Reagan National Airport if they are allowed to merge.

The combined airline should only be allowed to operate the percentage of total flights that depart from Reagan airport as U.S. Airways does now, JetBlue said.

Such a standard would limit the merged airline, which is scheduled to use the American name, to 55 percent of the flights that leave daily from Reagan airport, which is the nearest airport to the capital city proper.

If no changes are made, JetBlue said U.S. Airways and American Airlines would operate 68 percent of the flights from Reagan.

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“We don’t think that’s fair,” JetBlue said in an email to its passengers. “We think the new American should be held to the current US Airways’ level of slots. That would be 55.”

Flights to Reagan airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency limits the number of flights that are allowed to take off from the airports to help control airplane traffic in the congested New York and D.C. areas, which each have three major airports.

The FAA approves airline service from Reagan and LaGuardia, which are known as “slots,” to specific cities to ensure flights are available to popular destinations throughout the country.

JetBlue said it was offering a $55 flight sale “just to make sure Washington gets the message.

“Fares from $55 to Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa,” the company wrote.  “Hope you can ‘slot’ a trip in between November 12 and December 18!  Tickets must be purchased by November 12.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ), which has filed a lawsuit to stop the proposed U.S. Air-American merger, has identified slots at Reagan airport as a key to a potential settlement in the case.

U.S. Airways currently operates a hub out of Reagan airport.

The trial for the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the proposed merger is scheduled to begin on Nov. 25.