DALLAS — The CEO of American Airlines says his company is getting $381 million from selling takeoff and landing rights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National Airport outside Washington.
Doug Parker said his airline was paid more than it expected to get for the rights — called slots — at the busy airports.
The U.S. Justice Department put a higher figure — more than $425 million — on American’s gain. Parker said that the government might have added the value of slots that American picked up at New York’s Kennedy Airport, “That’s their valuation, not ours.” The Justice Department did not immediately comment.
Driving hard bargain
In comments filed Monday in federal district court in Washington, the Justice Department said the value of the slots proved that it drove a hard bargain last year when it settled its antitrust lawsuit against the merger of American and US Airways. The airlines agreed to give up some of their slots at LaGuardia and Reagan and two gates each at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami and Dallas.
The Justice Department said that American’s sale of the LaGuardia slots to Southwest Airlines Co. and Virgin America is complete, while the transfer of Reagan slots to Southwest, JetBlue Airways Corp. and Virgin America is expected to wrap up soon. Each airline had announced that it won bidding for the slots, but the sale prices were not disclosed. American traded some of the Reagan slots to JetBlue for slots at Kennedy Airport, a deal that Parker said was underway before the lawsuit.
Slots at Reagan, LaGuardia, Kennedy and the Newark, N.J., airport are limited by the government, making them valuable when they hit the market. A pair of slots is needed for each round-trip flight.
Parker told an investor conference in New York that the slots had been recently appraised at $225 million, so getting $381 million was “great news.”
Consumer groups, lawmakers, the Detroit airport and Delta Air Lines Inc. lodged complaints about the settlement.
Some consumer groups complained that the settlement didn’t go far enough to protect travelers. Delta argued that the government was wrong to say that so-called legacy carriers — United Airlines is another — shouldn’t get any of the slots and gates that American is selling. Delta wants Reagan slots and gates at Dallas Love Field.
The Justice Department said that after reviewing public comments, it still believes that the settlement will offset any lost competition from allowing the nation’s third-biggest and fifth-biggest airlines to combine. The merger made American Airlines Group Inc. the world’s biggest airline operator.
Federal law requires a 60-day public-comment period after the government settles an antitrust lawsuit. Even critics of the merger had low expectations that their complaints would change the outcome, however.
FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines and US Airways canceled more than 14,000 flights last month — more than double the rate from a year earlier — as winter storms disrupted air travel.
American Airlines Group Inc. said Monday that the cancellations hurt the first-quarter profit, but it didn’t give a figure. The company said it expects to give more details in early April.
Despite the storms, the company said, a key figure of revenue for every seat flown one mile rose between 2 and 4 percent in the first quarter. That statistic rises when an airline fills more seats or raises average fares.
American and US Airways canceled about 28,000 flights in the first two months of the year, up 164 percent from the same period in 2013 as storms hit hubs in Chicago, Dallas and elsewhere.
Despite the cancellations, traffic rose 0.5 percent, as passengers flew 15.08 billion miles last month, up from 15.01 billion in February 2013.
American and US Airways boosted capacity by 0.8 percent, so the average flight was a bit less crowded; 78.4 percent full, down from 78.7 percent a year earlier. All of the capacity increase was on international flying.