JetBlue Requests New Perimeter Exemption Slots at Reagan National

The one of the final pieces of the Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) slot puzzle seems to have finally fallen into place. JetBlue announced today that the airline is requesting an additional slot pair to expand their daily service to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU). If granted, the airline would fly the route 2x daily.

JetBlue wants an additional slot pair to double its service to San Juan
JetBlue wants an additional slot pair to double its service to San Juan.

JetBlue’s ask comes after Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, and Spirit have all made their asks. With only five perimeter exempt slot pairs up for grabs someone is going to be the odd airline out, and this is before we know whether or not United will try and grab a pair. The airline operates a large hub at Washington’s Dulles International Airport (IAD).

The announcement from JetBlue comes as the New York City based carrier is making a massive push into the Puerto Rican market. Robert Land, JetBlue’s Head of Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel had this to say regarding the announcement:

“JetBlue looks forward to submitting our application to enhance the connection between Reagan National and our focus city, San Juan, with convenient double-daily low fare roundtrip flights between the two capitals.”

Robert Land, JetBlue’s Head of Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel
a jet plane flying in the sky
JetBlue wants to double its service between Washington D.C. and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Who’s Else is in the Market for DCA Perimeter Exemptions

With JetBlue’s announcement, this is the current state of the slot battle at Reagan National.

  • Alaska has requested an exemption to fly between DCA and San Diego (SAN). San Diego is the largest market without direct service to Reagan National airport.
  • American partnered with the City of San Antonio in its bid to connect Washington D.C. with the nation’s 7th largest city.
  • Delta wants to connect its Seattle (SEA) hub to DCA. The route is already operated by Alaska Airlines but Delta is touting its international connections, especially to Asia, to make its case.
  • Southwest is looking to roll a double with its bid to fly between DCA and Las Vegas, a route already operated by American Airlines. Southwest sweetened the deal by adding a one stop, no change of plane flight to Sacramento as part of the request.
  • Spirit wants to connect DCA with San José Mineta International Airport (SJC). This request is somewhat cloudy as it’s unclear whether they are even eligible. Even if they are, Spirit is classified as a limited incumbent, along with Alaska, and only one exemption is available. I believe Alaska gets the nod over Spirit here.
a view of an airport from a window
American is one of the airlines looking to obtain additional perimeter exemptions from their hub at DCA.

While we already have more airlines wanting slots than the FAA has made available Gary Leff, from View from the Wing, has done a deep-dive into the ruling and uncovered a slew of issues regarding what airlines can be granted specific slot exemptions.

Who Gets the Slots?

Looking over all of the options presented for the five new slot pairs, Gary’s evaluation notwithstanding, American and Alaska feel like shoe-ins. American’s proposed service connects a major Texas military city with Washington’s closer-in airport and has the backing of Senator Ted Cruz who helped pass the bill while Alaska is proposing a link between the nation’s capital and San Diego, the largest market without service to DCA.

Delta and Southwest are both looking for slots to operate routes that are already served by other carriers. While this would be good for competition, it doesn’t open up any new routes outside of the perimeter at DCA. Delta is looking to add a flight to Seattle (competing with Alaska’s service) and Southwest is looking to add a flight to Las Vegas (competing with American).

Unfortunately for JetBlue, they are looking to add additional frequencies on a route that only they serve. Since the airline is already connecting San Juan and DCA, and the fact that no other airlines are operating the route, this seems like the least likely of the proposed options.

JetBlue is looking to launch flights between Washington and San Juan
JetBlue has one of the weaker requests for a slot pair IMO.


JetBlue has tossed its hat into the ring for one of the five available slots at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. With JetBlue’s announcement there are officially more airlines vying for the perimeter exemption slot pairs than there are slot pairs available. Unfortunately for them, I feel like JetBlue has one of the weaker requests for a new perimeter exemption slot pair.

    1. The DOT has set July 8th as the deadline for applications and July 17th is the deadline for stakeholder comments on applications. United would need to announce in the next week or so.

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