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JetBlue says it acquires slots at Reagan National Airport

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[January 31, 2014]  (Reuters)  JetBlue Airways <JBLU.O> said on Thursday it won takeoff and landing rights at Reagan National Airport near Washington that American Airlines Group <AAL.O> was required to shed under an agreement with the U.S. government.

New York-based JetBlue said in a statement it was told its bid for 12 slot pairs at Reagan National was accepted, with a final agreement subject to approval of the U.S. Justice Department.

It also said American had agreed to the permanent transfer to JetBlue of eight other slot pairs at Reagan National that JetBlue has been operating temporarily since 2010.

American's former parent, AMR Corp, and US Airways Group agreed to give up 52 pairs of takeoff and landing rights, or 104 slots, at Reagan National Airport as well as certain other assets under a settlement of an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department seeking to block their combination.

The merger, completed in December, formed the world's largest airline.

JetBlue added that once its agreement for the slots is approved, it expects to add 12 new roundtrip flights at Reagan National.

It said it plans to provide non-stop flights to cities it does not currently serve. With the new slots, JetBlue plans to operate up to 30 roundtrips per day at Reagan National, compared with 18 currently.

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Southwest Airlines <LUV.N> also said it bid for Reagan National slots and Virgin America <VA.UL> has also said it was interested in airport assets that are available as a result of the American merger settlement.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; editing by Sophie Hares)

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