Southwest announced today that it has leased 36 slots at Newark Liberty International Airport from Continental, enough to operate 18 daily round-trip flights. The lease is contingent on Continental closing its merger with United by November 30.
If all goes according to plan, Southwest will launch service from Newark in March, with a full schedule in place by June. Southwest says the slots are spread out throughout the day, which it claims will allow for easy connections to its route network.
For Continental and United, the lease is a way to satisfy government concerns that the airlines' merger will reduce competition. The airlines are hoping that allowing another carrier to enter one of Continental's major markets will do the trick. Losing the slots shouldn't have any noticeable effect on the merged airline's service, since redundant routes would have likely been eliminated anyway.
This marks a major step for Southwest, which only recently added service to LaGuardia. Gaining a foothold at Newark gives it access to more of the New York market, particularly the millions of North Jersey residents who'd rather not slog out to LaGuardia or JFK.
For now, Southwest isn't hinting at possible itineraries, and probably won't do so until the lease is official. Where do you think Southwest should fly from its newest destination?