Jun. 16--A battle is brewing between American and Northwest airlines in New York, and for local travelers, it will likely mean cheaper airfares to the Big Apple this fall.
Northwest announced Friday that it will begin nonstop flights from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to LaGuardia Airport in New York on Sept. 5. The airline, based in Eagan, Minn., will fly three times daily between the two airports on Airbus A319 airplanes.
A Northwest spokesman declined to comment on the new service. But in a statement, Tom Bach, the carrier's vice president of network planning and revenue management, said he hoped that business travelers, in particular, would gravitate to the new flights.
The D/FW-to-LaGuardia market is dominated by American Airlines, which operates the only nonstop flights between the two airports. American, which has a hub at D/FW, is flying 10 trips a day to LaGuardia, and analysts say the route is one of the carrier's most profitable from North Texas.
Terry Trippler, a travel analyst based in Minneapolis, said Northwest's foray into the market is retribution for American's recent decision to begin service from LaGuardia to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, where Northwest has a hub.
"This is going to be a real battle," Trippler said. "Both of these airlines are tough competitors, and they don't really like each other very much."
American spokesman Tim Wagner said that the carrier, based in Fort Worth, will "compete with Northwest here just like we do in markets around the country."
During the fourth quarter of 2006, fares from D/FW to LaGuardia on all airlines averaged about $250 each way, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But last-minute fares -- usually purchased by business travelers -- are typically far more pricey. On Friday, American was selling nonstop round-trip tickets to LaGuardia, with one day's notice, for about $1,450.
There is some competition on routes to other New York-area airports. Delta Air Lines offers nonstop regional-jet service to John F. Kennedy Airport from D/FW, while Continental Airlines has nonstop flights to Newark Airport. But for business travelers, LaGuardia has long been the preferred destination.
American has a reputation for vigorously defending top routes from its largest hub. When AirTran Airways began nonstop service from D/FW to Los Angeles in 2004, American responded by swamping the market, offering cheap fares on 39 flights a day to four airports in the Los Angeles area. AirTran ultimately dropped the route and has since scaled down its presence here.
Northwest has a similar reputation for brutal competition, Trippler said. When Frontier Airlines began nonstop service between Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Northwest targeted Frontier's hub in Denver.
"They absolutely crushed them," Trippler said. "So my advice is, if you're flying to New York, wait until September if you can, because it's going to get a lot cheaper."
Shares of AMR Corp., American's parent (ticker: AMR), closed at $25.91 per share Friday, down 2 cents.
Trebor Banstetter, 817-390-7064
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