by Michael Lowrey
Yup, that’s what the airline is proposing as part of an effort to get an extra slot at Washington Reagan National airport (DCA), where it is the dominate airline.
Here’s the deal: DCA is capacity restricted. Most DCA takeoff and landing slots can be used for flights to any place within 1,250 miles. Beyond that, there are two types of special slots: Those that can be used for destinations over 1,250 miles away and special extra slots to encourage service to “smaller” communities within 1,250 miles. One of those smaller city service slots is now available. US Airways, JetBlue, and Southwest have all made proposals to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the slot.
U.S. Airways wants to use it to offer a flight to Oklahoma City (OKC). If it wins, it would offer twice daily Charlotte – Oklahoma City flights as well. OKC is the second or third largest market depending upon the season within 1,200 miles of Charlotte without a nonstop. Oklahoma City is also the largest city without a flight to DCA.
JetBlue is proposing a flight to Jacksonville, FL while Southwest wants to fly from DCA to Houston Hobby. Both cities already have service to DCA; US Airways serves Jacksonville while United flies from Houston Intercontinental to DCA. The airlines’ applications stress how they would increase competition. JetBlue and Southwest will also argue that US Airways can start OKC-DCA flights whenever it wants to using one of the 230 or slots it already controls at Reagan National, which is certainly a valid point. Be interesting to see if US Airways doesn’t win whether they choose to begin Oklahoma City service anyway.
US Airways has an interest counter argument against Southwest though — in the previous DCA small community slot competition a few months back, Southwest itself proposed an OKC-DCA flight (!). (US Airways won with a proposal for Jackson, MS service.)
Analysis: We’ve seen this 2 CLT/1 DCA formula from US Airways before. When it started flights from Omaha, NE and Des Moines, IA to the east coast earlier this year, it began by offering 2 CLT and 1 DCA flight to each. Presumably, we might expect this pattern to continue going forward though there just aren’t that many second-tier destinations in the eastern U.S. that US Airways doesn’t currently fly to from Charlotte.