US major carriers are moving quickly to take advantage of an opportunity to trade-in slots for longer-haul service from Washington National airport, which sits minutes away from the US capital city.
Elements of the recently-passed FAA Reauthorisation bill signed into law freed up eight slot pairs - 16 slot exemptions - at the airport for operation beyond a 2,012km (1,250mi) perimeter. With a few exceptions, carriers operating from National are subject to a federal mandate prohibiting the operation of flights beyond that set perimeter.
Four slot pairs are being allocated to new carriers, while the major airlines already operating long-haul service from National - American, United, Delta and US Airways - are each allowed to operate an additional daily flight beyond the perimeter.
Through a slot allocation process set-up by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) those carriers must notify the agency of slots for within perimeter hub flying they intend to discontinue using in order to operate long-haul flights. Each of the four carriers could operate a maximum of two of the newly authorised slot exemptions.
American has informed DOT of its plans to discontinue two daily flights from Washington National to Dallas in order to launch a daily roundtrip flight to Los Angeles in June using a 188-seat Boeing 757.
Delta Air Lines plans to trade in its slots used for National-New York LaGuardia flights to begin operating a single daily roundtrip flight to Salt Lake City using a combination of Boeing 737-800 and 757 aircraft.
United-Continental has decided to operate a new daily flight from National to its San Francisco hub with narrowbody aircraft beginning in May by trading in slots used for flights to its Chicago hub.
Airlines interested in obtaining the four slot pairs allocated to new entrants have until 12 May to submit their bids.