American Airlines and US Airways are giving up 52 vested slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as part of an agreement with the Department of Justice in order to get plans for their merger approved. Without buyers for these slots, some small and mid-sized airports around the country could lose flights into Washington National completely. Delta and United are the most obvious companies able to step up and fill in those gaps, but the Department of Justice has made it clear that those airlines will not be considered for the divested slots. According to Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer for the Department, as reported by Forbes, there are about seven or eight smaller airlines that would be considered to be allowed to bid on the divested slots. The Department is trying to make sure no antitrust issues are caused by the merger or the distribution of the divested slots. Delta issued a statement publicly declaring their interest in purchasing those detested slots. The airline believes they are in the best position to pick up and offer coverage in the areas abandoned in the midst of the American Airlines/ US Airways merger.
The Department of Justice would like those slots to go to the smaller carriers in the spirit of antitrust. No single buyer will be considered for being allowed to purchase all the slots vacated. United Airlines has declined to comment on the matter. Most of the small to mid-size airports that are likely to lose service to Washington National that is now provided by US Airways are those along the east coast and in the southeastern United States. However, many of these cities are already covered by service currently provided by Delta Airlines.
This divestment does not affect flights into or out of other Washington D.C. area airports, such as Washington Dulles International Airport.