We won’t know how big this deal will be for Delta Air Lines until the carrier implements its new schedule in 2012, builds new facilities and amenities and has time for the market to adjust.

But its ability to add 132 daily flights out of New York’s most popular airport looms very big, particularly since Delta already carried more passengers out of LaGuardia than any of its competitors.

To a lesser extent, US Airways will benefit from its acquisition of 42 pairs of takeoff and landing slots at Washington Reagan National Airport, another congested airport with slot controls. However, New York is a bigger market, and more people pass through LaGuardia.

We’re a bit surprised that regulators permitted this deal to go through, since it allowed the biggest carriers at LaGuardia and Washington National grow larger. The U.S. Department of Transportatition did force Delta and US Airways to auction off 16 slot pairs at LaGuardia and eight at Washington National to introduce a little more competition at those airports.

In any case, I nominate this for the sleeper story of the year.

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