Low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways has a keen interest in making Ronald Reagan Washington National airport a focus city, despite restrictions at the airport.
The New York-based airline's chief executive Dave Barger says that while there are no plans to add to JetBlue's six focus cities in the coming years, the airline will seize any opportunities that become available at Washington National.
"It's an underserved airport for its size," Barger tells Flightglobal at the sidelines of the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Dallas, pointing out the growth in the DC metropolitan area. "If you think about all the slots that aren't being used that used to be assigned to corporate aviation before 9/11, it's really an underutilised airport."
JetBlue operates 18 flights a day out of Washington National, to destinations including Boston, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and San Juan.
While JetBlue is not likely to add another focus city to its network based on the number of aircraft deliveries they expect in the next five years, Barger says that the carrier will jump on any slots at Washington National if they become available.
However, he acknowledges that there are various challenges keeping the airline from expanding at the airport, such as the slot-controlled environment and opposition from regulators and politicians. "It's a terrific opportunity, and we are going to keep fighting the good fight," he says.
JetBlue paid $72 million to Delta Air Lines for slots divested at Washington National and New York LaGuardia after a slot auction held by the Federal Aviation Administration last year, and the airline will not hesitate to invest in any slots that became available, says Barger.
"If slots become available, you bet we will bid for them... if we could put another 20 flights a day into Reagan, you bet we will do that," he says.