November 23, 2011 / 7:40 PM / in 6 years

WestJet wins slots at New York's LaGuardia airport

(Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd said on Wednesday it had won eight takeoff and landing slots at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a shot in arm for the carrier’s plans to expand its service in the East.

WestJet, Canada’s second biggest airline, is locked in a battle for passengers in Eastern Canada and into the United States with No. 1 carrier Air Canada and smaller privately-owned rival Porter Airlines.

Westjet is particularly keen to attract more business travelers, and a hub such as LaGuardia should broaden its appeal.

“Our growth plans, in which increased business travel in the East figures prominently, include New York City, Canada’s largest international business market,” WestJet Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky said in a statement.

Westjet won the slots in an auction held by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority. Two slot packages were available at LaGuardia and one at Washington’s Ronald Reagan National airport.

WestJet did not say what it paid for the slots, nor did it reveal from which cities it will fly from to LaGuardia.

The Calgary-based airline previously flew from Toronto to LaGuardia but stopped the service after 10 months in July 2005. The flights were at midday and not hugely attractive to the business travel market, a spokesman said.

WestJet’s stock ended down 2.6 percent at C$11.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday in a sharply lower market.

($1=$1.05 Canadian)

Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Peter Galloway

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