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Good news for budget travelers: United-Continental leases Newark slots to Southwest
United and Continental must be really serious about their merger.
The airlines announced late Friday that they will lease 18 pairs of take-off and landing slots at Newark Liberty International Airport to archrival Southwest Airlines.
It's something Continental never would have done if it had chosen to remain a stand-alone airline. Newark is Continental's biggest hub and the center of operations for the lucrative New York market. To allow Southwest a toehold there with a Newark presence would have been unthinkable.
Officials for United and Southwest admitted the offer is a bid to allay Justice department concerns about their proposed merger.
“We think this would be a fair solution that would allow Continental and United to create an airline that will provide customers with an unparalleled global network and top quality products and services, while enhancing domestic competition at Newark,” Jeff Smisek, Continental’s chairman, president and CEO, said in a press release.
The new slot leases will go into effect in late March 2011 over a three-month period.
One benefit for budget travelers: Airfares to Newark from cities where Southwest flies are likely to drop, as is usually the case when the Dallas-based airline enters a new market.
Southwest recently begin flying to New York's La Guardia airport in late June, with, eight daily departures to Chicago Midway and Baltimore. The airline gained the La Guardia slots by buying ATA Airlines.
It is unlikely that Southwest will fly non-stop from Houston to Newark. Passengers will likely change planes in Baltimore or Chicago, which they do now if flying Southwest to La Guardia.