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Lack Of Low-Fare Service In Washington, DC Market  
User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 3366 times:

Scanning the lists of carriers serving DCA and IAD, and trying to plan yet another trip as cheaply as possible, I realized exactly how few low-fare options people have in the Washington market.

Dulles sees only four low-fare carriers, Air Tran, MetroJet, Delta Express and Sun Country, with nonstops to just a few destinations (Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Raliegh/Durham and Florida). National is even worse, with just ATA to Chicago and Midway to Raliegh/Durham. I find this surprising.

Some might argue that Southwest's service out of BWI provides Washington with dozens of low-fare options. While I love Southwest, and just got back from travelling with them this weekend, schlepping up to BWI just is not time efficient for the 2 million people (like me) who live on the Virginia side of the Potomac, closer to National and Dulles Airport. It takes me a good hour and a half to get out to BWI for a flight, when it only takes 20 minutes to go to IAD or DCA via the Dulles Access Road or the Metro.

What's really surprising is that Dulles hasn't attracted dozens of suitors for low-fare service, both from existing carriers and new start ups. I can understand why this has not happened largely at National, with the slot restrictions and still-limited gate space, but Dulles has capacity that is yet to be fully utilized. At the very minimum, low-fare carriers could use the M gates that seem to have been abandoned by airlines like Delta in favor of the A/B concourse.

We really haven't seen Dulles as a low-fare hub since ValuJet started with their major expansion effort in 1995/1996, when they had service to Atlanta, Raliegh, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Hartford, and quite a few florida cities. When the crash occurred in '97, ValuJet stepped off those routes and closed down the IAD hub. Why this happened, I have no idea. But with the exception of MetroJet (which seems to have picked up many of these routes), no

What we really need at IAD is a Southwest-type low-fare, no-frills airline that bases itself here and gives competitive fares to those of United, the dominant giant at Dulles. Low-fare international service, like ValuJet's Montreal flights, to Canada and Mexico would similarly be needed. One could start such an airline with 737NG's or surplus 737-200/500s and run the Southwest formula for success. I know I'd fly such a carrier in a heartbeat.

14 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinePmk From United States of America, joined May 1999, 664 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 3060 times:

Any airline must pay BLOOD to be in IAD or DCA, BWI I have found is worth the trip, I have no problems getting to BWI when I'm out that way, I just take the Metro to Union Station and switch trains to AMTRAK or MARC depending on the day. It costs less and is worth the hassle for the price difference on SWA. If you want to fly AirTran, that's your choice, make sure your affairs are in order before you leave, you may not come back!


User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 3059 times:

I do the same thing to get to BWI, and while I find that it's not a horrible way to get to the airport, it still takes *time*, generally a good hour to hour and a half from where I live (central Fairfax County), depending on how close a connection to MARC I can make at Union Station. But even after that, you still have to transfer to the airport shuttle bus, which only operates every fifteen minutes. BWI really needs a direct DC rail connection to the terminal, IMO.

If you have the time to putter around to get to BWI, that's great. Many leisure travelers, myself included, love Southwest's BWI service, which essentially is nationwide now. It's like a low-fare hub, or as much of one as SWA can provide. But when time is critical, such as when you want to go on a weekend trip and can't cut out of work early, BWI is a major hassle. It's more convenient for people living in Virginia or working in downtown DC to jump on the Metro to DCA or drive to IAD. It saves a lot of time and effort (not to mention potentially missed connections to rail and shuttle buses).

As to your comment about AirTran, I've never heard about them having any safety problems since the ValuJet days. It makes sense that they're a safer carrier now because of the more intense FAA scrutiny stemming from the Miami crash in 97. If the flights are on their 717s, I wouldn't hesitate to go with them. If they're flying the DC-9s and 737s, however, I'd consider SWA. The problem is that AirTran just doesn't offer convenient schedules--you have to go through Atlanta no matter where you want to fly. Hopefully, they'll address this situation soon.

User currently offlinePmk From United States of America, joined May 1999, 664 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 3055 times:

As you say it does take about an hour to get to BWI, but it's the fastest and cheapest way to get from here to there. As for AirTran, I thought like you until I ran into an AirTran pilot in a hotel in Buffalo, NY. The conversation went into many things but the most alarming was him telling me that an engine fire in a DC-9 is a common occurance and that it not cause for an evacuation. His quote was "...in the DC-9, the controls are all cables, the engines are in the back, their not gonna hurt me, the engines can just sit there and burn..." Yes this is the TRUTH, I even saw his ID card, he is an ex ValuJet pilot and now works for AirTran, a bad philosophy in my opinion, that mindset makes AirTran dangerous!.


User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 3055 times:

No doubt that BWI is currently the cheapest way to get around, with the extensive SWA and MetroJet service from there. My earlier complaint was, however, that the Washington, DC market is currently underserved because BWI is inconvenient for many. BWI could still remain at the top with its many low-fare flights, while IAD could expand quite a bit with a few more low-fare carriers challenging United and USAirways' dominance in the area. This would especially be needed if United ended up getting approval for the merger.

No comment on the AirTran bit; however, when they go to all-717 service, I'd be completely comfortable with flying with them.

User currently offlineFrontierMan From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 413 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 3047 times:

Well, Valujet did expand to IAD after the crash with service to Boston, Midway, and Atlanta. I have it in a timetable. Also, I have talked with an AirTran pilot after an incident that happened at CAK. A tire blew up and caught the engine on fire. They lost power and came around for an emergency landing. The pilot told me that you should never mess around when an engine is on fire, and if you lose power you should land the plane immediately. After the crash Valujet had a near perfect safety record, but of course all the media bashing couldn't help their case. Also, the CEO of Valujet (Lewis Jordan) will be running for the Georgia Senate supposedly. Maybe they'll appoint him to the aviation safety subcommitte. What IAD needs is another Presidential Airways.

User currently offlineTWA902fly From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 3203 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 3049 times:

LOL!!! Stop complaining. ONLY 4 low fare carriers??? for people like me who live North of O'Hare in Chicago, there ARE NO low-fare carriers except for the charters. If you want to waste 2 hours driving to Chicago-Midaway, go ahead. At midway we have


hmmm... thats only five. Theres probably more. But still dude, if you want a low fare you go to BWI or MDW in my case. The lower-fare airlines operate out of these airports, because the airport does not charge as much to use the airport, as say IAD and DCA. When the airports charge the airlines less, the airline charges you less.


life wasn't worth the balance, or the crumpled paper it was written on
User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 3043 times:

Agreed. Presidential was a wonderful boon to IAD at the head of deregulation that allowed Dulles to expand its regional horizons. United, I think, took them over, which led to their hub dominance here in the Washington area.

So far, no low-fare carrier has stepped up to the plate to base themselves at IAD, which I think is unfortunate. AirTran should

ValuJet did have service out of IAD after the crash, but it wasn't the same sort of hub that was in place before the crash. The Boston and Chicago routes were summarily dropped by AirTran, citing complaints of low traffic. That left Atlanta.

ValuJet was well on its way to becoming another Presidential at IAD when the crash happened. The resulting grounding of the airline killed its forward momentum with Dulles expansion, and allowed other carriers, such as Southwest and United to pick up their former customers. And AirTran never came back.

What we need is an airline that will fill in the routes that aren't being served by MetroJet, Delta Express, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Southwest. It'd have to avoid the heavily-competitive routes that these existing carriers already serve, such as IAD-Florida, IAD-ATL, and IAD-MDW. Personally, I'd like to see service to larger cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Toronto, Montreal, New Orleans, Dallas and Houston, mixed in with service to smaller cities like Hartford, Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Buffalo, Syracuse, etc. A jetBlue type of operation would be ideal, but something along the lines of Southwest would be great, too. As long as they provide low fares with a reasonable level of service to IAD/DCA, I and a lot of other Washingtonians would be happy.

User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 3044 times:

What you've got to realize is that service on these carriers is limited. Sun Country only has flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and AirTran only has flights to Atlanta. Delta Express only flies to Orlando and a couple of select Florida markets. MetroJet is a bit better about this, but their service still isn't extensive.

Northeast low-fare service is pretty much nonexistant at IAD, which gives United dominance on these routes. And Dulles has the capacity for a low-fare carrier to base itself there and do rather well on these and other routes.

It's not whining to want a convenient, low-fare airline that's reasonably close to where many Washingtonians live. BWI doesn't really fit that bill, especially for people who want to save time. I understand the reasons why BWI allows low-fare airlines to exist there more easily than at Dulles, but that doesn't preclude one from existing here. Presidential did rather well in the mid-80s. And ATA offers low fares to Chicago Midway out of *National*. It isn't impossible, and as soon as someone realizes the market potential that exists in two million people who are sick of paying high fares to fly out of their hometown airport, they will benefit greatly.

User currently offlineZRB2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 903 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3019 times:

I too live in the DC area and hands down prefer DCA to any other airport. It's just easy to get in and out of. BWI is a pain to get to and even when you drive you have to park in the outer lots and take a shuttle bus. Last time I was there a few weeks ago on a Sat morning, the bus was so crowded I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one to swing by. I heard a rumour that JEtBlue was thinking about IAD in their future plans.That would be great. Since I fly to Buffalo fairly regularly, that would work for me. I would happily use IAD. As it stands, I'm pumped up for Southwest's new service from BWI to BUF in October as are many ex-Western New Yorkers in this area. I'd better start liking BWI.

User currently offlineCody From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1963 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3014 times:

ValuJet was actually larger at Dulles than Presidential was in its hayday. Presidential did not have as many flights as ValuJet did. I think the real reason ValuJet did not come back to IAD was because the company reduced its fleet so much that it had to concentrate on its core market (ATL) and when it was all said and done, United had expanded Dulles once again, and MetroJet and Delta Express had entered. By the way, Presidential operated with 737-200's and BAe 146 jets under their own banner until 1987 when they became Continental Express. Imagine 737's in Continental Express colors. Believe me, they were there. After CAL dropped its Dulles hub, United entered into an agreement with Presidential to become United Express, but not before Presidential had repainted most of the fleet in its own colors again. United did not like the idea of having and EXPRESS operation using 737's so Presidential ended up buying Jetstreams and getting rid of the 737 fleet. They also sold their KeyAir subsidiary (727's) to World and started new service to HSP, EKN, MGW, and SHD. This did not work and Presidential folded up and was liquidated. Its assets were used to start up Atlantic Coast.

User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3015 times:

jetBlue at IAD would be a godsend for me, as I will be returning to the Buffalo/Toronto area frequently in the next year, and I live less than fifteen minutes from Dulles. I wonder if they'd inaugurate with JFK service, and then expand, or start off with many flights to destinations such as BUF, OAK, and the Florida routes.

SWA is an attractive option at BWI, but again, the key factor for me is time. If I have to get to Toronto quickly, I can't afford to putter up to BWI, take a slow, crowded shuttle bus, and fly up to Buffalo, only to have to take a three-hour train ride when I get in. That's just not time-effective, no matter how good Southwest is. However, for people who need to get to Buffalo or Niagara Falls, it is, I admit, a very attractive service.

jetBlue could really make inroads at Dulles, though, because of their hip, Y2K image, and because of their low fares and expanding route network. The young fleet of A320s would also be a great selling point in the Washington area.

I'd bet money that they'd start flying to JFK, Rochester and Buffalo to begin with, and follow up with redeye nonstops to Ontario and Oakland later on. That's just a guess, though.

User currently offlineZRB2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 903 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 3010 times:

N202PA- A few fragmented thoughts.....I think if JetBlue comes here, they will start with JFK and maybe a Florida route. I'd still gladly connect through JFK. Maybe we should start bombarding their corporate office with letters of encouragement to start service to IAD.

I agree that flying to BUF and having to drive the 90 miles to Toronto is not your idea of convenient. Other than the Air Canada weekend e-fares from DCA to YYZ, is there any other good fare to YYZ? I think Southwest will grab quite a few people from Southern Ontario within a 1 hour drive of BUF.
BWI definitely needs to keep expanding if they want to continue adding flights. That place is jam packed a lot.

User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1577 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (15 years 10 months 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 2998 times:

I agree that some positive encouragement for jetBlue to come to town would be absolutely great. I'm going to write a letter to them tonight expounding the virtues of IAD. And I, too, would gladly connect through JFK, if they offered cheap fares and convenient schedules.

Unfortunately, there really are few options for flying from DC to Toronto. Air Canada and USAirways are the only airlines that fly the route nonstop, and there isn't really a secondary airport in Toronto at this time (City Centre Airport only serves traffic to Ottawa, London, and Montreal). All of the other airlines serve connection routes, which are really not that convenient at all, and the prices tend to be the same as the AC nonstops. There are cheaper flights, but they're not always available, and you have to jump through hoops to get them (such as my last trip, when I had to spend countless hours on hold with BestFares.com to get through to make the reservation).

All of this indicates to me that this route could use some low-fare competition. Similar instances exist on domestic routes out of IAD. This is precisely why I say that Dulles is a underused facility that could be exploited by a low-fare carrier.

It's funny, but I got the impression that BWI was actually underutilized as well--perhaps it's the time of day I've been there (morning to mid-morning), but I've noticed that there aren't that many aircraft landing at any given time. Also, ticket counter space is freely available to anyone who wants it--the entire row in which ProAir is located is completely empty (with the exception of the FBO counter, which I assume is used to operate charters). Finally, whenever I've left there, there was no waiting on the taxiway or the ramp to leave--the aircraft just turned, taxied rapidly to the runway end, and took off without holding short.

Maybe that's just anecdotal evidence, but it indicated to me that there's more room for BWI to expand as a low-fare airport. Plus, they have plenty of room to expand the A pier, if they wanted to. They could also expand the E pier if more international carriers could be attracted.

User currently offlineZRB2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 903 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (15 years 10 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 2982 times:

Thanks for the info N202PA. I guess my experiences at BWI are totally different. I think it has very adequate runway space but the 4 times I've been there in the last year have always been crowded and long lines especially at US Airways and United. Maybe it's the time of day but you would think an average early Sat morning would be empty?..not so. The cars/buses to drop off passengers backed up well before the terminals. The shuttle bus had to drop us off at arrivals.

Keep writing Jetblue, maybe we'll get lucky.

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