At first glance, it might seem far away and of little consequence to North Carolinians: US Airways Group Inc. wants to swap 125 round-trip slots at New York’s LaGuardia Airport for 42 that Delta Air Lines Inc. owns at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. But if the deal gets regulatory approval and closes next year, as planned, it will mean changes at North Carolina’s three largest airports, too.
Piedmont Triad International could be the big loser, relinquishing all six of its daily US Airways flights to LaGuardia. That would reduce total daily departures to 61. Service to the New York metro area would be pared to four Continental flights to Newark International in New Jersey. Delta operates 19 daily flights from the Greensboro airport, but 11 go to Atlanta, where it is based.
At Raleigh-Durham International, six US Airways flights to New York are in jeopardy. But it has 16 other direct flights to LaGuardia. Charlotte/Douglas International will come out ahead. It won’t lose any LaGuardia flights, and as part of the deal, Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways gains the right to expand its international service to Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Tokyo. The Sao Paolo flight will originate in Charlotte, US Airways’ largest hub, in the second half of 2010.
Ted Johnson, director of the Greensboro airport, has talked with Delta about taking over the six flights to LaGuardia, but the airline didn’t make any commitment. Even so, he’s confident Greensboro won’t lose out completely. “My consultants are very confident that someone will fly that route, whether it’s Delta or someone else.” But a new carrier might not commit to all six flights.
The switch could be good for the Triad in some ways, according to Michael Boyd, president of The Boyd Group, an Evergreen, Colo.-based aviation consultant. “What Delta is looking to do is different from what US Airways was doing.” He believes the airport could win service to LaGuardia on larger planes. “They say they’re going to operate a connecting hub at LaGuardia. Maybe Greensboro might be in the program, because it’s not a dying community. Delta can do a lot more there than US Airways could.”