A Capital Scramble
Airlines, including Alaska, lining up
to secure opening in nation's capital
From: Alaska's World http://www.alaskasworld.com
Posted February 20, 2001
A rare opportunity to compete for two slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., has most of the U.S. airline industry licking its proverbial chops in anticipation.
And Alaska Airlines is planning to join the fray when one pair of the airport’s "outside-the-perimeter" slots — one of only six such pairs at the airport that allow for non-stop flights of more than 1,250 miles — comes open with the demise of TWA.
Alaska's application would propose daily non-stop service between Seattle and the nation's capital using 120-seat B737-700 aircraft. Currently, United offers the only nonstop service from Seattle to the D.C. area, operating three daily roundtrips to the less-popular Dulles International Airport, 45 minutes outside of downtown D.C. in Northern Virginia.
Control Tower in Washington D.C.
Many other applications are expected from carriers vying for the hard-to-get outside-the-perimeter slots.
But nothing will happen until TWA ceases operations. TWA currently controls the slots in question. If the proposed acquisition of TWA by American Airlines goes through, the slots --- which are not transferable --- will be "returned" to the U.S. Department of Transportation. DOT will solicit applications and then award the slots. The whole process could take several months.
"DOT will build a number of considerations into its thinking, such as customer convenience and enhancement of the competitive landscape," said Gregg Saretsky, Alaska's senior vice president of marketing and planning. "It will be a highly competitive process, with each airline fiercely promoting its case."
Saretsky said the DCA opportunity is enticing for Alaska for several reasons. "There currently is no non-stop service between SEA-DCA, and the market --- driven mostly by business travelers --- is sizeable. And while this route would represent a departure from our north-south network, it builds upon our strength at our largest hub, Seattle."
He noted that loads would be bolstered by connecting traffic from elsewhere in the Alaska and Horizon system --- a fact that will help Alaska’s application, because it offers single-stop service to DCA from small- and medium-sized communities. Improved access to the nation’s capital from smaller communities is something DOT will factor into its decision making.
Sartesky added that because Alaska codeshare partners American and Northwest offer one-stop and connecting service to D.C., "our proposal, in combination with their existing service, offers customers better time-of-day coverage than could be provided by just a single daily nonstop."
Saretsky said that with ASM growth of 10 percent this year, Alaska has plenty of capacity to take advantage of this rare opportunity while still strengthening core markets.