DOT announces DC National Perimeter Exemptions

New Washington National Perimeter Exemption Awards by DOT | Commercial Aviation and Airline News

The Four Winners Are

Flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport are not only slot restricted, but they’re restricted to a 1,250 mile perimeter by law.  Today, May 14, four carriers which proposed services are being provided exemptions by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

  • Alaska Airlines – Washington National to Portland, Oregon (PDX)
  • JetBlue Airways – Washington National to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
  • Southwest Airlines – Washington National to Austin, Texas (AUS)
  • Virgin America – Washington National to San Francisco (SFO)

This is Virgin America’s first service at Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport.

The other three carriers currently have limited service at the airport, but each city will receive one new nonstop roundtrip each.

DOT Secretary LaHood, speaking of the new services said, “These new flights will provide convenient nonstop service to our nation’s capital for travelers from four major cities.”  LaHood Added, “The flights will increase competition for airlines serving Washington, which can lead to lower fares for consumers.”

The new flights were made possible by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Obama on Feb. 14, 2012.  The law created a total of four daily slot pair exemptions at Reagan National for airlines with little or no service at the airport to serve cities farther than 1,250 miles from Washington.

Air carriers cannot operate flights between Washington’s National Airport and cities beyond the 1,250 mile limit unless Congress passes a law to authorize it.

However, the same law also provided “the big four legacy” carriers to exchange a total of four slot pairs within the perimeter for an equal number of slot exemptions to permit nonstop flights beyond the perimeter.

Results among the legacies:

  • American trades one DFW flight for a Los Angeles (LAX) nonstop;
  • Delta Air Lines trades one LaGuardia Flight for a Salt Lake City (SLC) nonstop;
  • United traded one flight to Chicago O’Hare for a San Francisco (SFO) nonstop;
  • US Airways traded a flight to Dallas for a San Diego (SAN) nonstop.

The United States Congress first created slot exemptions at Reagan National in 2000.  Since then, the Department of Transportation has provided 20 slot-pair exemptions for beyond-perimeter allowing for 20 new round-trip services beyond 1,250 miles.

The most recent winners, Alaska to Portland (PDX), JetBlue to San Juan (SJU), Southwest to Austin (AUS), and Virgin America to San Francisco (SFO) will work with the US DOT and FAA to determine the flight times.

Virgin America, based at San Francisco Airport, and United Airlines with their SFO hub will be competing head to head in the lucrative non-stop market between DC’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) and San Francisco Intl (SFO).  Virgin America will have one-up on United with their well-fit Airbus A319/A320 series aircraft, with state of the art in-fight entertainment, mood lighting and a premium first class product.  On the other hand, United Airlines operating pre-merger Continental Boeing 737-700 aircraft on the route will have one-up with their Frequent Flyer program combined with international connections to the Asia/Pacific region from their San Francisco Hub.

If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s the convenience of these new longer routes from Washington DC’s close-in “downtown” airport – no need to trek out to Dulles or Baltimore Washington International to catch the new, high demand flights.

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