Southwest Plans to Launch Washington to Las Vegas Flights

A few days after American and Alaska announced their intentions to pursue new perimeter slot exemptions at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA), Southwest has jumped into the mix. The airline announced today its intention to link the nation’s capital with Las Vegas International Airport (LAS).

a sign with palm trees and buildings in the background with Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign in the background
Southwest is Planning to Launch flights between Washington-Reagan and Las Vegas

Southwest Connecting Washington to Las Vegas

The Dallas based carrier is planning to apply for one of the five new round-trip slot pairs coming to DCA thanks to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024. Unlike the first two requests by American and Alaska, DCA and LAS are already connected. American currently operates the route 1x daily.

Southwest is trying to make the case that this flight will bring down prices thanks to increased competition. Years ago, the “Southwest Effect” was well known in the industry for driving down prices. In the years since, Southwest’s fares have risen dramatically. Today, I find them to have pricing similar to the Big 3 US carriers.

The airline is trying to differentiate from American on the route by offering same day, no change of plane service to Sacramento, California (SMF). With Sacramento being the state capital, this allows the airline to “maximize the competitive and consumer benefits of the DCA route.”

Jacky Rosen, the junior senator from Nevada, had this to say about the announcement:

“I’m glad to support Southwest’s application to provide nonstop service between DCA and Harry Reid International Airport because bringing more flights to Las Vegas creates more options for visitors to come to our state and helps sustain critical tourism jobs.”

Jacky Rosen, US Senator from Nevada
airplanes parked at an airport
Southwest is planning to add one-stop, no change of plane service to Sacramento as part of its application.

The airline plans to utilize 175 seat Boeing 737 aircraft on the route.

Who’s Left to Request Slots

With American, Alaska, and Southwest making their moves, Delta and United are the remaining major carriers to make an announcement. United operates a large hub down the road at Dulles Airport (IAD) but they’re likely still interested in some slots. They already have a few exemptions used to connect Denver and San Francisco and would likely use additional slots to increase frequencies on an existing route.

Delta is the carrier that I’m most curious about as they were major supporters or expanding or eliminating the restrictions. Personally, I’m hoping that the airline adds Austin (AUS) to DCA flights to compete with Southwest.

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). As they continue to expand in Austin adding the route could be a possibility.

The airlines seem to be taking a conservative approach, each only requesting one route. It will be interesting to see how things shake out once all of the requests come in. Once the bill is signed into law, the USDOT will have 60 days to award the five slot pairs.


Southwest is the latest airline to announce plans for new perimeter exemptions at DCA. The airline is proposing nonstop flights to Las Vegas with one-stop, no change of plane service on to Sacramento. If approved, Southwest will compete head to head with American on the route.

  1. Southwest is trying to preempt Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant from asking for DCA-LAS. Southwest’s prices are high so they won’t lower prices on this route. So it’ll be interesting to see what the other airlines ask for. Delta might have to ask for AUS rather than SEA.
    Hopefully we will see Hawaiian ask for a slot to an airport in California with one stop to Hawaii.

    1. Southwest will be going head to head with American on the DCA-LAS route. Of the three airlines that have requested service, this is the first that has a competitor already operating on the route. I fully expect Delta to come in and ask for multiple slots. While I would love to see AUS-DCA, it is still up in the air.

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