Delta Announces Big LaGuardia Expansion

Delta Air Lines Inc. is boosting its flying out of New York's LaGuardia airport, adding routes that target American Airlines and put it in a better position to compete against United.

Delta said the additions make it the biggest airline between the New York area and cities in the U.S. That should help it grab more business travelers.

It is the largest one-time expansion by an airline at LaGuardia in more than 40 years.

Gail Grimmett, senior vice president for Delta in New York, said that's why the airline picked LaGuardia — it's the businessman's choice airport. "With this expansion, we are really providing the service the businessman has been asking for, for years," she said.

James Rubin, counselor to Governor Andrew Cuomo on competitiveness, said the investment will also bring more people and jobs to the city.

"This is an important day for New York, for our role as the hub of the world, the hub of the United States, and the connectivity that only an airport and airlines can provide."

United and Continental's merger into the world's largest airline puts Delta in second-place by traffic. Expanding in a key business market like New York will help it compete against the larger United.

"It's about increasing Delta's overall appeal and utility to the high-yield business traveler," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "Delta is going for scope of service, rather than always having the largest number of flights to a smaller network of cities."

Delta said it will spend $100 million to expand LaGuardia's C and D terminals, to be connected by a 600-foot bridge.

Delta obtained the new flying rights in a deal with US Airways Group Inc. Delta gave up some of its flying rights at Washington's Reagan airport, which US Airways wanted, in exchange for some of that airline's rights at LaGuardia, which Delta wanted. The exchange of flying rights happens in two batches, on March 25 and July 11, so the new flights will begin after that.

With reporting from Alex Goldmark and Claudia Morell