Four cities which, because of distance, had earlier been ineligible for non-stop service to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport are to get direct service to the near-downtown Washington D.C. airport.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected Alaska Airlines for service to Portland, Oregon; JetBlue Airways for San Juan, Puerto Rico; Southwest Airlines for Austin, Texas; and Virgin America for San Francisco. As of May 14, United Airlines is also offering non-stop Reagan National-San Francisco service, under a separate provision of the same legislation which has made possible the other new flights.
This will be Virgin America’s first service at Washington Reagan National Airport (IATA code DCA). The other carriers currently have only limited service at the airport. Each city will receive one new non-stop round trip per day.
Virgin America has indicated it will begin service later this summer on the San Francisco-Washington National route once it has finalized flight-schedule times with the DOT. JetBlue Airways has indicated it will begin San Juan-Washington National service in the fall.
“These new flights will provide convenient nonstop service to our nation’s capital for travelers from four major cities,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The flights will increase competition for airlines serving Washington, which can lead to lower fares for consumers.”
In its order confirming the selection, the DOT said the proposals from the four carriers selected merit their being awarded under the statute.
The new services were made available by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Obama on February 14. The law created eight daily slot exemptions at Washington Reagan National Airport for airlines with little or no service at the airport to serve cities farther than 1,250 miles from Washington D.C.
Airlines cannot fly between Reagan National and cities beyond this limit unless Congress passes a law to authorize it. A slot, or slot exemption, is the right to take off or land at an airport where operations are limited. Two slots are needed for a round-trip flight, and the law provided for four new round trips.
Unlike traditional slots, slot exemptions cannot be transferred, except through an air carrier merger or acquisition, and the flights can be operated only on routes proposed by the carriers and approved by the DOT.
The new law also allowed four large carriers already serving Reagan National to exchange a total of eight slots for flights within the perimeter for an equal number of slot exemptions to permit non-stop flights beyond the perimeter.
As a result, American Airlines will trade one round-trip flight to Dallas-Fort Worth for a flight to Los Angeles. Delta Air Lines will trade one round-trip flight to New York LaGuardia Airport for a flight to Salt Lake City.
United Airlines will trade one round-trip flight to Chicago O’Hare for a flight to San Francisco, which begins on May 14; and US Airways will trade one round-trip flight to Dallas/Fort Worth for a flight to San Diego.
Since Congress first created slot exemptions at Reagan National in 2000, the DOT has been authorized to award 40 exemptions for beyond-perimeter flights, which have permitted 20 new round-trip flights.
The selection order and the carriers’ applications are available at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0029.