American Nears Washington Flight Sale as Some Routes Are Cut

American Airlines Group Inc. will drop daily nonstop service between Washington’s Reagan National Airport and 17 cities, enabling the sale of flying rights for regulatory approval of its US Airways Group Inc. merger.

Dates when service ends will be announced “in the coming weeks” after American completes the sale of 104 takeoff and landing rights, or slots, according to a statement today from the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier. American agreed to the divestitures to settle a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block the US Airways tie-up.

Southwest Airlines Co., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Virgin America Inc. have said they are interested in the Reagan slots, without confirming a bid. U.S. regulators required that buyers be low-cost carriers in order to expand competition and cheaper fares. Each slot is for a daily takeoff or landing and a pair is required for a round trip.

Cities losing direct, year-round service are Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Tallahassee, Florida; Wilmington, Jacksonville and Fayetteville, North Carolina; Detroit; Islip, New York; Little Rock, Arkansas; Minneapolis; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Omaha, Nebraska; San Diego; Montreal; and Nassau, Bahamas.

The airline also will shift US Airways’ Reagan-San Diego daily flight to Los Angeles to add a round trip, and fly between Reagan and Fort Myers, Florida, on a seasonal basis instead of year-round.

LaGuardia Changes

American divested flight rights in December at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the other focus of regulators’ objections. Southwest, the biggest discount carrier, bought 22 slots, including 10 already being leased from American, while Virgin America picked up 12.

As a result of that slot sale, American said, it will no longer fly nonstop between LaGuardia and Atlanta, Cleveland and Minneapolis. Combining its network with that of US Airways will let American add new service between LaGuardia and 10 cities.

Travelers will be able to book tickets starting Jan. 26 for flights between LaGuardia and Charlottesville, Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke, Virginia; Little Rock; Dayton, Ohio; Wilmington and Greensboro, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky.

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