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US Airways announced yesterday that it is increasing its service at LaGuardia Airport Oct. 31. But there could be more to it than that. As my colleague Darren Shannon writes in this Aviation Daily-subscriber only story, this is just the latest twist in the slot swap saga, and it has to make one wonder exactly what is going on here. I'm not the only one: The Cranky Flier also is raising the question on his blog.Under the slot swap, Delta was going to trade a bunch of its slots at National for a bunch of US Airways slots at LaGuardia. Each airline coherently argued that the deal made strategic sense: US Airways wanted to focus on boosting service in places where it already had a strong position was doing well, such as National; Delta wanted to built even more on its booming presence in the New York market. But the FAA placed conditions on the swap that both airlines found unacceptable -- it would have forced them to divest some of the slots in a blind auction to low-cost carriers with little or no service at the airports -- and they filed a lawsuit in court challenging the FAA's right to impose those conditions.As that lawsuit plays out, however, something else seems to be going on.Four of the seven new routes US Airways is adding in LaGuardia are already served by Delta, which also is in two of the three markets where US Airways is increasing service. US Airways is being coy about where it is getting the slots for this increase, telling Darren Shannon only that the 19 new daily flights were generated from the expiration of a short-term lease with one, unspecified, airline. Of course, that has some people speculating that the airline is Delta.Something similar happened in late July, when Delta announced new service out of National Oct. 31, including flights to seven new destinations. Four of those seven currently are served only by US Airways, and one, Orlando, only by US Airways and AirTran. US Airways also is in the Boston market, for which Delta is boosting its service by five daily frequencies, and Indianpolis, for which Delta is adding a third daily flight. And like US Airways, Delta has been coy about where it obtained the slots it is using for the new and increased service. As I wrote in this Aviation Daily subscriber-only article, Delta would tell me only that those slots include some that it previously subleased to other airlines that are "now available for Delta's use." The spokesman would not specify which airlines had been subleasing the slots, or under what circumstances Delta got them back. That led to some speculation that the subleaser, or one of the subleasers, was US Airways.If the airlines are battling each other in this way, that is entertaining to watch but not necessarily great business. So I hope whatever the reason for these routes, they are at least going to be profitable. In these economic times, they can scarcely afford otherwise.
tw99, Delta, US Airways
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