American Seals Control of Kennedy Flights in JetBlue Swap

American Airlines Group Inc., forced by federal regulators to sell flying rights in two cities, won ownership of 24 flight slots at New York’s Kennedy Airport that were being leased from JetBlue Airways Corp.

The transaction was a trade, with JetBlue getting 16 slots at Washington’s Reagan National Airport in return, Casey Norton, an American spokesman, said today in an e-mail. American and JetBlue closed their deal yesterday.

Controlling the slots instead of leasing them strengthens American at Kennedy, a hub for overseas trips and one of four major domestic airports where the U.S. limits access to curb congestion. The swap also is a boost to New York-based JetBlue, which bought 24 other slots sold by American last month.

American’s divestitures at Reagan were required to settle the U.S. Justice Department lawsuit that sought to block its merger with US Airways Group Inc. The airline also had to sell flight rights at New York’s LaGuardia airport. Each slot covers a takeoff or landing, so a pair is needed for a round trip.

JetBlue didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment about the Kennedy-Reagan flight exchange.

American fell 1.3 percent to $34.69 at the close of trading in New York today, while JetBlue slipped 0.5 percent to $8.46.

JetBlue and American began leasing slots from each other under a 2010 agreement in which the carriers linked frequent-flier programs on some routes and extended a marketing relationship on some flights between New York and Boston.

Southwest Airlines Co. also bought slots from American at Reagan, and joined Virgin America Inc. in purchasing flying rights sold at LaGuardia.

Under the lawsuit settlement, US Airways and American also agreed to give up two airport gates each at Boston Logan, Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Love Field and Miami International. The carriers’ merger, which closed Dec. 9, made American the world’s largest airline by passenger traffic.

(Updates with closing share prices in sixth paragraph.)
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