The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has approved the use of three slot pairs held by Republic Airlines for flights between Ronald Reagan Washington National airport and Madison, Wisconsin, and Omaha, Nebraska.
The flights under the Delta Connection brand began on 1 February but were subject to a ruling by the regulator following objections by JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines that the move increased Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines slot holdings at the restricted airport.
In question were the slot times, which were previously shifted from the 21:00 hour to more desirable times of day to improve the competitiveness of non-incumbent carriers at Washington National.
Republic previously used the slots for service to Madison and Omaha under the Frontier Airlines brand. However, Denver-based Frontier discontinued the service in January following its sale to Indigo Partners in December 2013.
The DOT agreed with JetBlue and Southwest that the move represents an “effective transfer of control” of the slots to Delta but found that the fact that Madison and Omaha would likely lose service without the move outweighed the transfer, in a decision on 4 March.
“Without these exemptions, the slots would revert to the 21:00 hour and be of limited utility to Republic and the travellers in these smaller Midwestern communities, putting the only nonstop service to these communities at risk,” writes Susan Kurland, assistant secretary for aviation and international at the DOT, in the decision.
If Republic decides to use the slots for service to any cities other than Madison and Omaha, such a move would be subject to a review by the regulator, it adds in the decision.
No other carriers fly between the Washington region, including Baltimore/Washington International and Washington Dulles International airports, and either Madison or Omaha, Innovata schedules show.