Lawmakers Seek to Protect Air Routes at Reagan National

Image: Lawmakers Seek to Protect Air Routes at Reagan National

Monday, 03 Jun 2013 02:52 PM

By Dan Weil

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More than 100 House members are urging the government not to make American Airlines and US Airways dump flight slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a condition of their pending merger.

According to Politico, the request comes from Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals alike.

The members are concerned the merger could eliminate nonstop flights from the airport closest to Capitol Hill to smaller cities like Augusta, Ga.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Fayetteville, Ark.; and Charleston, W.Va.; not to mention the resort areas of Hilton Head, S.C., and Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Attorney General Eric Holder, 106 lawmakers denied their bipartisan request was motivated by self-interest, Politico reported Monday.

"This letter has absolutely nothing to do with lawmakers' convenience and everything to do with representing the smaller communities that realize the economic benefits of these flights," Maine Democrat Michael Michaud, a leader of the cause, told Politico.

"We heard from our communities on this issue and responded in a bipartisan way. There's really nothing else to it, and I've been disappointed with efforts in the media to misconstrue the intent of this letter," said Michaud.

But one government watchdog pointed out that many supporters of the House members, including their donors, are frequent fliers to Washington.

"It would be an enormous hassle if [lawmakers] could not fly nonstop," Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Politico.

"But by the same token, I'm sure they would be concerned for their communities. I'm sure that they're hearing from some of those business people … who tend to be contributors."

Tennessee Republican John Duncan is helping Michaud lead the charge to keep the nonstop flights. Other backers of the effort include liberal Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and the Texas Republican and conservative heavyweight Joe Barton.

The bipartisan effort may not work, however. With the combined airline controlling about 70 percent of flight slots at Reagan, most airline experts believe it will have to jettison some flight slots at Reagan National in order to pass the Justice Department’s antitrust review, according to Politico.

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