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American Airlines files FAA bid for S.A. to D.C. flight; other airlines, cities fight for space

San Antonio's Director of Airports Jesus Saenz announces a campaign to ask for the public's support in the city's bid to create a nonstop flight to DCA.
Joey Palacios
San Antonio's Director of Airports Jesus Saenz announces a campaign to ask for the public's support in the city's bid to create a nonstop flight to DCA.

American Airlines has placed a formal bid with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to create a new nonstop route between San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Reagan International Airport (DCA). San Antonio is the largest city in the U.S. without a direct flight to the nation's capital.

Last month, Congress allowed five new slots to open at DCA for cities more than 1,250 miles away, and now the FAA will decide on which cities can get the slots. San Antonio and American are asking for the public’s support in its bid. City officials, who have been pushing for this flight for well over a decade, say a nonstop option would save thousands of hours in travel time, layovers and plane changes.

Currently there are 200 daily passengers from San Antonio who fly into the Washington D.C. area but either have a layover or fly into Dulles or Baltimore on multiple airlines. San Antonio has 45 nonstop destinations and DCA is the second largest destination airport without a nonstop from SAT with the largest being San Diego.

During a Monday press conference that asked for the public to submit comments to the FAA, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said having a flight without a layover would save travel time related to military endeavors.

“With the military connections that are made each day between SAT and DCA, our military and its partners would save over 500,000 man-hours each year,” he said, calling the flight a historic opportunity.

American would have two flights per day: Flight 1718 — a departure from SAT that leaves at 6:35 a.m. and arrives at 10:35 a.m. daily; and Flight 1947—a return flight from DCA that departs from Washington at 7:45 p.m. and returns to San Antonio at 10:20 p.m. Both flights would use an Airbus A321.

The airline plans to use special flight numbers for the departing and return trips.

“Flight 1718 recognizes the year San Antonio was founded and Flight 1947 celebrates the year the U.S. Air Force was established,” a company news release said.

Part of the airline's bid includes more than 150 letters from business leaders, politicians and community members.

There are only 10 slots (5 round trips) allocated under the FAA reauthorization bill approved by Congress. Other airlines placing bids include Delta, that wants to connect Seattle/Tacoma with a nonstop, United Airlines hoping for a nonstop between San Francisco and Washington D.C., and Alaska Airlines attempting to connect San Diego.

San Antonio is the only major city in Texas to not have a DCA flight. Austin had received a nonstop during the last bidding process where Southwest was awarded a flight slot.

The public comment period is now open through the FAA until July 17th. A decision would come a few weeks later. Comments can be submitted here,

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