© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SAT to DCA? A direct flight to Washington D.C. is close after Congress approves new flights

San Antonio International Airport file photo.
Courtesy photo
City of San Antonio
San Antonio International Airport file photo.

San Antonio has a chance to finally get a direct flight to Washington D.C. in the new FAA reauthorization bill. There’s a possibility of one of five new routes connecting the Alamo City to the nation’s capital.

It takes a literal act of Congress to get a flight to Reagan National Airport, also known as DCA by airport code, if a city is outside of a 1,250 mile perimeter from the Capitol. After passing the House and Senate, the bill includes ten slots to Reagan, giving way to five round trip cities.

It’s not a done deal yet. After President Joe Biden’s signature, there’s a bidding process for the slots. A statement from the San Antonio International Airport said American Airlines will make the bid.

San Antonio, which is about 1,300 miles away from DCA, is the only major city in Texas and one of the largest metro areas to not have a direct flight to Reagan already.

“We have been working for more than a decade to give residents of America’s seventh-largest city the same access to our nation’s leaders as nearly every other major city in the country,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “I am grateful for the hard work of Sen. [Ted] Cruz and our entire congressional delegation and look forward to [Transportation] Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg’s approval of American’s application to initiate nonstop service from Military City USA to DCA."

Attempts have been made in the past. Until now, it had seemed like pie in the sky proposal.

During the last round of slot expansions for DCA, Southwest Airlines gained the bid to launch a flight from Austin in 2012.

Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Bush and Hobby Airports in Houston, and Love Field and DFW airport in Dallas Fort Worth areas all have direct flights to Reagan.

The effort between Texas congressional members was a rare unity of bicameral and bipartisan support. Cruz, a Republican, pushed for the expansion of slots in the Senate. He said in a statement that it was meant as support for military members in Texas.

“I will be pressing the U.S. Department of Transportation to swiftly approve applications for the five long-haul flights that I successfully included in this year’s FAA reauthorization bill and look forward to being on the first direct San Antonio-Reagan National flight later this year.”

San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, said would have a huge impact on not only service members in San Antonio but relations between businesses and the federal government.

“It would be a much faster trip for constituents who lobby Congress and the federal government. So many people over the years have complained about having to fly to Baltimore and then taking expensive cabs in; same thing to Dulles Airport in Virginia.”

The expansion of slots into Reagan has long been opposed by groups like the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees the operations of Reagan and Dulles. They lobbied extensively to stop any increase of direct flights outside the perimeter boundaries.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules