Looking for a win-win on DCA flights

Looking for a win-win on DCA flights
Regan National Airport. (Photo/Kaitlin Murphy)

To the editor:

The story “U.S. House grounds DCA flight amendment” in the August 10 Alexandria Times contained a couple of factual errors. The list of long distance destinations – those beyond 1,250 miles – with nonstop service erroneously included San Diego, which once did have nonstop service but does not currently, and omitted San Juan, PR. In addition, the statement: “Long-distance flights use larger planes and carry more passengers, which can increase noise and airport congestion” is simply untrue.

For example, Alaska and United both use the B737-800 (738) for long distance flights to the west coast and to Denver. The

738 is one of the most popular aircraft at DCA and is used extensively by Southwest, American, Delta and United to fly to short distance destinations such as Chicago, Charlotte, Orlando and Miami – all in the exact same aircraft. Sadly, the “longer must be bigger/louder” belief continues to be a common misconception.

From a noise perspective, I understand folks’ concerns about adding additional flights – of course more flights mean more noise. But whether the flights are long dis- tance or not should not be part of this discussion.

Although I agree with most of your editorial “Not in our air space,” in the same paper, I do take issue with the implication that Alexandria residents would not benefit from more frequent long flights being available at DCA. I, for one, would love to see the San Diego service restored, and new service added to John Wayne/Orange County to complement the existing 4 times daily LAX service.

Also, a second morning/evening flight to/from Denver on United and Salt Lake City on Delta would offer a greater choice of connections to and from smaller cities in the Rocky Mountains and on the west coast. Allowing JetBlue to offer transcontinental service with its industry-leading Mint product would be a very welcome addition to DCA flight options and would increase competition on existing routes. And of course, there have been other new destinations discussed, such as San Antonio, that could also benefit Port City residents.

I think a good compromise here would be:

• No new flights. No additional noise.

• Permit each of the “Big Five” within-perimeter operators – American, United, Southwest, Delta, JetBlue – to take up to two slot pairs, i.e. round-trip destinations, currently operated on mainline jets within the perimeter and switch them to an outside-perimeter destination. So, for example, if Delta wanted to take a current flight operated to Detroit and fly it to Salt Lake City instead – who cares? Since the changed flights would be on mainline and not regional jets, no service to small eastern cities would be impacted.

No additional noise. Western states get new or additional access to DCA with a few existing flights allowed to switch to longer destinations. No reduction in regional service to smaller communities. Everyone wins.

-David Danner, Alexandria