Alaska Makes its Play for Reagan National Slots

With the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, Alaska is the second airline making its play for Reagan National Slots.

Alaska Airlines Boeing 787-9 MAX
Alaska Airlines is also pursuing expanded service at Reagan National.

As we noted yesterday with American’s joint announcement with the City of San Antonio, five new slot pairs are up for grabs for flights outside of the 1,250 mile perimeter at DCA. American and San Antonio had a massive, joint announcement yesterday while Alaska’s announcement is a bit more muted.

Alaska’s Chief Commercial Officer, Andrew Harrison, had this to say about the proposed San Diego service:

San Diego is the largest market without nonstop service to Reagan National Airport. This new route would not only connect southern Californians to our nation’s capital, but it would also provide seamless connectivity on Alaska Airlines’ diverse routes allowing guests to connect through San Diego.

Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines Chief Commercial Officer

The Seattle based carrier currently serves Reagan National Airport from all of their Continental United States, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. Only their Anchorage hub doesn’t see service to DCA currently.

All of Alaska’s Flights are Outside of the Perimeter

Alaska is currently utilizing the second most perimeter slot exemptions (10) at DCA. This trails only American (12) which operates a hub at the airport. Both airlines are part of the OneWorld alliance.

The most notable item here is that all of Alaska’s flights are operated using this exemption. The airline inherited the DCA-DAL route from Virgin America but ceased operating it after the merger.

Alaska Airlines More to Love 737-900
Alaska Predecessor Virgin America Previously Served DCA from Dallas-Love

The airline is using its 10 slots to fly the following:

  • 2x daily to Seattle (SEA)
  • 1x daily to Los Angeles (LAX)
  • 1x daily to Portland (PDX)
  • 1x daily to San Francisco (SFO)

It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the airline’s chances of obtaining two of the new slots that are being made available. Airlines seem to be taking a methodical approach to these new slot offerings with American stating the DCA-SAT route would be the only one they are applying for.

Alaska did not go that far in their announcement, leaving the door open for more adds. However, this would close one of the last remaining holes in their DCA route network and any additional requests would likely be for additional frequencies on existing routes.

Who Else Could Make Requests?

Of the 5 available pairs, two requests have already been made. It will be interesting to see what other airlines jump in to the hunt. Delta was a proponent of adding these slots so you can assume their announcement is coming.

Delta Connection has multiple flights connecting smaller, non-hub state capitals with DCA. The airline flies between Washington and Lexington (KY), Madison (WI), Nashville (TN), and Omaha (NE) (the capitol is in nearby Lincoln. Could they, selfishly, request flights to Austin?

Ironically, American and Alaska were two of the three airlines pushing to keep the restrictions capped at current levels. So far, these are the only two airlines that have made announcements regarding applying for the new slots. United, with their large hub at Washington-Dulles, was the third pushing for the restrictions to remain.

Once the bill is signed into law, the USDOT will have 60 days to award the five slot pairs based on the applications submitted.


Two airlines have now announced their intentions to offer an expanded route map out of Washington’s Reagan National Airport. Alaska Airlines intends to apply for a perimeter exemption to serve San Diego, which would be its fifth destination from the airport. Other airlines are sure to follow with additional requests.

  1. Alaska wanted these slots 11 years ago but didn’t get them because they got PDX.
    Now I can see the following:
    AA – SAT
    AS – SAN
    WN – DEN
    UA – SFO
    F9 – SJU

    1. No love for Delta here? They lobbied to get additional slots so I’m sure they will request a route or two. If more than 5 pairs are requested I think it’s likely they assign them to airports that don’t have existing service to DCA. United and Frontier already operate DCA-DEN, UA already has 1x DCA-SFO along with Alaska, and JetBlue runs DCA-SJU.

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