Mar. 26--An Indianapolis bankruptcy judge approved a plan Wednesday that lets Southwest Airlines Co. buy the assets of ATA Airlines Inc. for $7.5 million and take control of ATA's 14 takeoff and landing slots at New York LaGuardia Airport.
With the sale set to close Friday, Southwest will be a step closer to launching service at the New York airport with a handful of flights.
Bob Montgomery, Southwest's vice president of properties, said the airline hopes to begin service there sometime this summer.
"We should be coming out with an announcement shortly," Montgomery said.
In early December, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Basil H. Lorch III approved the proposal to sell the ATA assets to Southwest, but the deal had to be confirmed in ATA's reorganization plan.
Because of congestion and delays, LaGuardia's takeoffs and landings are limited by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, which are attempting to reduce the number even more. The airline industry so far has been able to block the government's effort in court.
Southwest has declined to reveal where it plans to fly from LaGuardia, and the 14 slots will give it only seven departures a day. But Montgomery said the airline would like to eventually pick up additional takeoff and landing slots.
"Of course, things at LaGuardia are changing very rapidly. We're in touch with the Port Authority [of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport] and with the FAA on that whole mix. I think we would like to find a way to acquire more slots," Montgomery said.
"The FAA slot rules are being reconsidered, so there's a lack of clarity of what the FAA is going to do," he said.
LaGuardia Airport officials have agreed to lease Gate B2 in the airport's Terminal B, with some assurances that Southwest will be able to secure more space as it needs it, he said.
Montgomery said the airline is "anxious to experience how New York does accept our service" in that market.
"The experience on delays and air traffic is going to be substantially different from what we've experienced in other places in the country," he said. "So we really want to understand all the implications on our schedule, on our pricing and on our customers.
"Then I think we'll be in real good shape to really succeed in that marketplace."
$7.5 million bid for 14 slots controlled by ATA
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