Slot Allotment at DCA

DCA Reagan National Airport

Washington’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) is hankered after because passengers love it. It’s handy. It’s nifty. It’s even a Metro stop. Sad is the passenger dealing with nearby Dulles, or not-so-near-by Baltimore-Washington International.

When I lived in DC, it took the low fares of Southwest to pilot you to BWI. High-priced US Airways had a lock on Washington’s backyard. Now, in what may read like some law of unattended consequences, Southwest is making it in DCA.

Slots at DCA have been up for grabs ever since American Airlines surrendered 104 of them to settle a Department of Justice anti-trust lawsuit related to the US Airways merger.

Southwest and JetBlue have elbowed their way and gained the most from the suit relating to slots at DCA. But the DOJ would say the bottom line for them is the bottom line for us – competitive pricing.

This past week, another deadline passed in the ongoing slot grab at DCA. A pair of slots once owned by Midwest Airlines had worked their way down (up?) to Frontier Airlines. They pulled out in February when the DOT granted temporary rights to Southwest Airlines.

Four airlines applied for the pair of slots, which allows them to operate one round-trip a day from DCA. The weird thing is American Airlines is one of them (old habits die hard).

American wants to offer a daily round-trip to Islip, N.Y., using a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 200. US Airways already operates two flights a day between Islip and DCA, using Air Wisconsin. (The data is swiped from

Here’s the in-your-face case American made for the benefit of the DOJ in their application to serve Islip.

“No other U.S. airline is more committed to smaller communities than AA, and this application reaffirms that commitment. The Department now has a unique opportunity to similarly reaffirm its recent support for providing DCA access to small communities.”

Not much I can add to that, other than there are times when I doff my cap to attorneys.

JetBlue Airways propose to offer a daily round trip from DCA to Jacksonville, Fla., flying 100-seat Embraer E190s.

People Express Airlines, presumably a reincarnation of the original budget airlines, propose a daily round-trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., from April to October, and to Palm Beach, Fla., from October to April, operating 150-seat Boeing 737-400s.

Also in the news this week was Southwest Airlines announcing seven new DCA routes, slots it had already been awarded.

Beginning August 10, new routes are Chicago Midway (six daily round-trip flights); Nashville (three daily round-trip flights); New Orleans (two daily round-trip flights).

Tampa gets two round-trip flights beginning September 30. On November 2, Southwest begins service between DCA and Akron-Canton, Dallas Love Field and Indianapolis.

Southwest will also add flights between DCA and Houston Hobby and St. Louis, which are both existing routes.

“By year’s end, we’ll offer 44 daily departures to 14 destinations from Reagan National Airport,” Ron Ricks, Southwest Airlines EVP and Chief Legal & Regulatory Officer, said in a statement to USA Today.

The Tarmac’s View:  Southwest, JetBlue and a few other airlines benefited from the American Airlines slot divestiture. Southwest added 27 slot pairs while JetBlue received eight slot pairs they were leasing from American, plus another 12 slot pairs.

Passengers should be the primary beneficiaries of anti-trust justice. We’ll see. But for now I’m thinking if I still lived in Washington, I’d be making fewer trips to Dulles and BWI because ticket prices might be competitive out of DCA.


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