American and US air merger gets clearance

US AIRWAYS and American Airlines will give low-cost competitors more access to a half dozen key US airports, including New York and Washington DC, in exchange for permission to merge and create the world’s largest airline.

The agreement announced yesterday settles a government lawsuit filed in August that argued that US Airways and AMR, parent of bankrupt American Airlines, should be forced to scrap the merger because it would hinder competition and lead to higher fares.

It is a compromise for the airlines, which will divest a number of takeoff and landing slots at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, DC, and at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, both busy airports with limited capacity.

At Reagan, the airlines will shed 52 slot pairs of nearly 300 total held by the two carriers, a move that affects 44 daily departures, said AMR spokesman Casey Norton said.

A slot pair is a set of scheduled times for a takeoff and a landing at the same airport.

The carriers agreed to divest 17 slot pairs at LaGuardia.