These Four Airlines Score Big With Lucrative New Flights

Four airlines have been granted new flights from Reagan National Airport after being narrowed from seven by U.S. regulators in a contest for access to the facility, which serves the Washington, D.C. area.

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Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK), JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ:JBLU), Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), and Virgin America were granted rights to each start a single daily flight. Air Canada, Sun Country Airlines, and the Frontier Airlines unit of Republic Airways Holdings (NASDAQ:RJET) lost out in the contest for new Reagan flights.

Regulators also announced today that four other carriers that already fly to Reagan would be allowed to start longer flights, but they had to drop a service to a closer-in city, as Reagan has grown congested and can only add a limited number of new services. The seven carriers vying for new flights were taking advantage of loosening restrictions on flights between Reagan and longer-haul destinations like the West Coast.

Alaska will be adding a flight to Portland, Oregon, JetBlue will fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Southwest will be adding a flight to Austin, Texas, and Virgin America will add another flight to its San Francisco base. All except Southwest had applied to launch two daily flights, but were granted only one.

Four incumbent carriers at Reagan — units of AMR Corp. and United Continental Holdings (NYSE:UAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), and US Airways Group (NYSE:LCC) — will split four new round-trip flights between them.

Flights through Reagan have notoriously been limited by restrictions in place since the 1960s, but the U.S. Department of Transportation is now beginning to ease up on those restrictions. Still, airlines are allowed to operate only narrow-body planes on all of the new routes, with new restrictions also limited the time of day they can operate.

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