Southwest Air can file brief in US Air-American Airlines case

Reuters

Nov 7 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday gave SouthwestAirlines permission to file a brief asking that USAirways Group and American Airlines berequired to give up take-off and landing slots at key U.S.airports should they merge.

Southwest has expressed interest in acquiring rights at NewYork's LaGuardia and Reagan National Airport near Washingtonthat could become available if the merger goes ahead.

In a statement, the Dallas-based carrier said its filingwould explain the benefits it could offer consumers should it beallowed to expand at those airports. The judge hearing the casesaid the brief must be filed no later than Nov. 15.

The Justice Department filed a suit in August to block themerger between American Airlines. U.S. Airways and AttorneyGeneral Eric Holder said this week the government wanted thecarriers to shed slots at Reagan National and other "key" U.S.airports.

Holder said he hoped to reach an agreement settling thematter before a federal trial is due to start Nov. 25.

American and US Airways declined to comment on Thursday.

US Airways told its shareholders in July that Southwest andJetBlue Airways were pushing hard to influenceregulators to require it and American to shed slots in themerger that would form the world's biggest carrier..

JetBlue told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit inSeptember that a merged American and US Airways should not havea share of slots at Reagan National that exceeds US Airways'current standalone share, which is about 55 percent.

Other U.S. carriers have cited potential benefits from themerger. Allegiant Travel, a Las Vegas-based low-costcarrier that serves leisure destinations, said on Thursday itwould consider opportunities to acquire airport slots that mightopen up as a result of the merger.

"We would certainly consider any and all opportunities,however, ultimately economics are a significant considerationfor us in any market," Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheelersaid in an email.

"We anticipate that the merger would create a healthynetwork carrier that would focus on the needs of business andinternational travelers, opening up growth opportunities in U.S.leisure markets for leisure-focused carriers such as Allegiant,"Wheeler said.

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