Washington Reagan welcomes JetBlue and more Delta routes in November; fares are 25% above average

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A slot-swap with American Airlines (which has given up its Washington Reagan-Boston route) enables JetBlue to enter DCA for the first time in November where it will take over Boston with six daily flights, and launch dailies to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Washington Reagan airport (formerly known as Washington National) is a wonderfully convenient facility for the movers and shakers in US politics and those with business interests in the capital. Located just minutes from downtown Washington, the airport typically handles between 17 million and 19 million passengers per annum. It has three runways, but none are more than 2,100 metres in length. Being one of just a handful of slot-managed airports in the US means that airline routes tend not to come and go quite as rapidly as at other airports.

Chart: Washington Reagan 1996-2009 - Annual passengers (millions)

Source: MWAA

In the last couple of years, there have been just a handful of new routes that have survived, including Air Canada to Ottawa, AirTran to Milwaukee and Orlando, and US Airways to Akron/Canton. Few routes have been dropped, but these include American to New York LaGuardia, and US Airways to Atlanta.

JetBlue starts three routes in November

Thanks to an approved slot-swap with American Airlines (which has given up its route to Boston) JetBlue is able to start new routes this winter to Boston (up to six daily flights) and daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. This marks the airline’s first ever routes to Washington National.

Date Airline Destination WF Competition (WF)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Columbus (CMH) 19 US Airways (32)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Hartford (BDL) 19 US Airways (38)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Jacksonville (JAX) 19 US Airways (27)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Miami (MIA) 14 American (63)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Orlando (MCO) 27 AirTran (7), JetBlue (7), US Airways (41)
31 Oct 2010 Delta St Louis (STL) 27 American (26)
31 Oct 2010 Delta Tampa (TPA) 14 US Airways (31)
1 Nov 2010 JetBlue Boston (BOS) 40 Delta (75), US Airways (93)
1 Nov 2010 JetBlue Fort Lauderdale (FLL) 5 Spirit (19), US Airways (18)
1 Nov 2010 JetBlue Orlando (MCO) 7 AirTran (7), Delta (27), US Airways (41)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 November 2010
WF: Weekly frequency

Despite not having a slot-swap involving US Airways and New York’s LaGuardia airport approved by the regulatory authorities, Delta has still managed to acquire enough slots to start seven new routes this winter requiring 21 daily departures.

US Airways remains the airport’s biggest user with a 43% share of seat capacity compared with 20% for Delta and 15% for American. A merged United and Continental have a 10% share, leaving Air Canada (the only foreign carrier at the airport), AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Frontier/Midwest, and Spirit Airlines as the remaining carriers.

Fares are among the highest in the US

Fares at Washington Reagan are among the highest in the country with the airport ranking in the top 10 of most expensive airports (for passengers) in each of the last four years.

Average Fare Fare Premium
All Markets
Fare Premium
Fare Premium
2004 Q1 $199 +27% +39% +17%
2005 Q1 $170 +15% +22% +10%
2006 Q1 (#14) $191 +19% +26% +12%
2007 Q1 (#8) $195 +23% +33% +14%
2008 Q1 (#4) $225 +30% +47% +19%
2009 Q1 (#4) $213 +32% +45% +22%
2010 Q1 (#8) $219 +25% +37% +16%
Source: US DOT Office of Aviation Analysis

The arrival of JetBlue and the acquisition of AirTran by Southwest will probably make little difference to average fares, as airlines exploit the high number of business passengers using the airport and their willingness to pay a premium for such convenience.


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