U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that new nonstop flights will be available to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport from four cities that, because of distance, had earlier been ineligible for nonstop service.
The U.S. Department of Transportation selected Alaska Airlines for service to Portland, Ore.; JetBlue Airways for San Juan, Puerto Rico; Southwest Airlines for Austin, Texas; and Virgin America for San Francisco. This is Virgin America’s first service at Reagan National. The other carriers currently have only limited service at the airport. Each city will receive one new nonstop roundtrip per day.
“These new flights will provide convenient nonstop service to our nation’s capital for travelers from four major cities,” Secretary LaHood said. “The flights will increase competition for airlines serving Washington, which can lead to lower fares for consumers.”
In its order, the Department said the proposals from the four carriers selected merit award under the statute.
The new services were made available by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Obama on Feb. 14. The law created eight daily slot exemptions at Reagan National for airlines with little or no service at the airport to serve cities farther than 1,250 miles from Washington. 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 Department.
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 nonstop 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 Airlines 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, 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 Department has been authorized to award 40 exemptions for beyond-perimeter flights, which have permitted 20 new round-trip operations.