Republic Airlines shifted three slot pairs at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport to operations for Delta Air Lines on 1 February, despite no decision from the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
The Indianapolis-based regional carrier’s Chautauqua Airlines subsidiary is using two of the pairs for flights to Omaha and one pair for a flight to Madison, Wisconsin, under the Delta Connection brand, confirms Robert Cohn, a partner at Hogan Lovells who represents Republic.
Republic is awaiting DOT sign off to continue the flights, which operate at desirable hours under a slot slide exemption first granted to Midwest Express Airlines in 1999.
JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines have objected to the use of the slots on behalf of Delta. They claim that allowing the exemption would increase the concentration of slots held or operated by incumbent carriers at Washington National and cite the fact that Delta already has more than 100 slots at the airport.
“The congressional intent of this unusual authority, as well as consistent DOT practice over two decades, clearly is to limit these exemptions to new entrants and limited incumbent carriers holding a small number of slots at DCA [Washington National] to facilitate their ability to compete effectively at the airport,” they say.
Republic rejects JetBlue and Southwest’s claim, arguing that they are fulfilling the purpose of the exemptions by continuing service to small cities.
“Absent the relief sought by the petition, Madison will lose its only nonstop service to DCA and the entire Washington DC/Baltimore metropolitan area,” writes Cohn in a regulatory filing on 31 January. “Neither Southwest nor JetBlue is proposing to serve Madison, and they ignore the devastating impacts that withdrawal of this slot exemption would have on Madison.”
Republic operated the flights to Omaha and Madison for Frontier Airlines until 1 February, when the Denver-based low-cost carrier discontinued the service.