WASHINGTON -- JetBlue is buying landing rights in New York and Washington in a $72 million deal that reshuffles some of the players in air travel to those cities.
The deal wraps up a major trade of landing rights at LaGuardia airport in New York and Reagan National Airport in Washington between Delta Air Lines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc.
The Transportation Department approved the Delta-US Airways deal as long as they agreed to sell off eight pairs of daily takeoff and landing slots at Reagan and 16 pairs at LaGuardia to spread out air service at those airports.
JetBlue Airways Corp. is paying $40 million for eight slot pairs at Reagan and $32 million for eight pairs at LaGuardia, the Transportation Department said. Canadian discounter WestJet announced on Nov. 23 that it will pay $17.6 million for eight slots at LaGuardia.
The airlines have not yet said where planes using the new slots will fly to or from.
The Transportation Department said JetBlue outbid WestJet for the other LaGuardia slots, but it said bidding rules prevented one carrier from winning all three auctions.
Other bidders were Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Southwest Airlines Co. and Spirit Airlines Inc. Allegiant is a unit of Allegiant Travel Co., and Frontier is run by Republic Airways Holdings Inc.
The government limited bidding to airlines that had less than 5 percent of the slots at either airport.
Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said the airline "made a reasonable offer based on the potential long- and short-term potential of the slots. We will continue to serve both the Washington National and LaGuardia markets with our existing Southwest and AirTran service." Southwest bought AirTran in May.
New York-based JetBlue's main hub is at John F. Kennedy International Airport, but it also flies to Florida from LaGuardia. It has flown at Reagan since November 2010, and currently has nine flights per day there.
The airline has been looking to expand in both New York and Washington, said JetBlue Vice President of Network Planning and Partnerships Scott Laurence.
Delta is trading 42 daily slot pairs at Reagan National for 132 US Airways slot pairs at LaGuardia. The swap lets Delta grow in New York, where it has a hub at JFK, and it allows US Airways to focus on Washington. US Airways has increasingly focused on its core destinations of Washington and its hubs in Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix, and Philadelphia.