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Fri, Mar 07, 2008

DOT Proposes To Award New US-Colombia Flights To Four Airlines

Would Open Service From NYC, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale And Houston

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed this week to grant four US airlines the right to operate one new daily flight apiece between the United States and Bogota, Colombia. In a tentative decision, the Department selected Delta Air Lines from New York’s JFK Airport, JetBlue Airways from Orlando, Spirit Airlines from Fort Lauderdale, and Continental Airlines from Houston.

Three of the new daily flights were made available by a September 2007 US-Colombia aviation agreement which increased, from 70 to 91, the total number of weekly flights that US carriers may operate between the two countries. Twenty-one new weekly flights will be phased-in by the end of 2008. In addition, the Department proposed to reallocate one daily U.S.-Colombia flight currently held by American Airlines.

DOT noted that air travel between the United States and Colombia increased by approximately 200,000 passengers between 2002 and 2006, with more than 750,000 passengers traveling between the two countries a year ago.

In its tentative decision, the Department said the award to Delta would provide the heavily-traveled New York-Bogota market with additional service and would increase competition and consumer choices. The services of JetBlue and Spirit would introduce two new carriers to the US-Colombia market, and provide Orlando and Fort Lauderdale with their first direct service to Colombia operated by a US air carrier. Continental’s service from Houston would address the need for additional convenient service options to Colombia for travelers from the central and western United States, the Department said.

If the tentative decision is made final, Delta may begin its new services immediately, JetBlue and Spirit on April 1, and Continental on October 1. In addition to the four carriers receiving awards, US Airways applied for service between Charlotte, NC and Bogota, and American sought to retain the frequencies it currently holds for additional service between Miami and Bogota/Medellin.

Objections to the show-cause order must be filed within 14 calendar days and answers to objections seven calendar days afterward. On Thursday, American responded angrily to the news it would have to give up its regular flight to Bogata.

"We do not believe that it was legitimate for DOT to seize American's duly authorized frequencies for reallocation to another carrier," said Tim Smith, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based carrier.

Nevertheless, last week the airline started ramping down service on the flight, which no longer operates daily, according to The Associated Press. Unless its appeal is granted, Smith says American will stop its service by the end of the month.

FMI: www.dot,gov, www.regulations.gov, www.aa.com

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