Last updated: 05:30 PM ET, Fri March 06 2015

American, Alaska Airlines Eye Transcontinental Flights from LGA

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Patrick Clarke | March 06, 2015

American, Alaska Airlines Eye Transcontinental Flights from LGA

American Airlines president Scott Kirby announced earlier this week that the Dallas-based airline is prepared to pursue operation between New York's LaGuardia Airport and major West Coast cities if the Port Authority's perimeter rule is eventually changed, according to Terry Maxon of the Dallas Morning News.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's rule is designed to restrict how far airlines can fly out of the airport, with the perimeter excluding transcontinental flights.

But LaGuardia's largest carrier, Delta Air Lines, has brought the future of the rule into question based on recent communication with the Port Authority.

"What would happen if you did change the perimeter rule is, yes, we would fly transcon," said Kirby while speaking at a J.P. Morgan Conference. "We’d fly a lot of flights from LaGuardia to the West Coast, and we’d fly them with bigger aircraft."

"So one, there’d be less small-community service out of LaGuardia than there is today, and there'd be a significant increase in the gauge and the number of passengers flying through LaGuardia, and that’s already a strained airport," added Kirby. "So anything that talks about changing the perimeter rule at LaGuardia has got to consider the facility issue and have a facility that's prepared to handle a significant increase in the number of passengers."

Because of LaGuardia's limited size and the corresponding perimeter rule, flights from New York to the West Coast are operated out of the area's other two major airports, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty. 

Currently, American flies out of LaGuardia to Chicago, Dallas and Miami but uses JFK for flights to popular West Coast destinations like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle. 

But American isn't alone in showing interest in LaGuardia. 

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines would also consider operating flights into New York via LaGuardia. 

"I think absolutely Alaska would be interested for all the reasons that folks like to transit in and out of LaGuardia," said Alaska Airlines CFO Brandon Pederson. "It’s just a more convenient access point to the city. So to the extent that the perimeter rule was relaxed and we have an opportunity to participate in that, that would be great."

Pederson went on to echo comments made by JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes calling for additional slots for smaller carriers in such a scenario. 

"I would highly encourage the consideration to include consideration for more choice for customers, I think opening up the perimeter to more airlines to fly to more places, not just incumbents, I think that would be beneficial for customers in the New York area and people outside New York that want to get to New York," added Pederson.

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