Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and US Airways are vying for two slots to operate flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport within its 1,250 miles perimeter, and have filed applications to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for the slot pair.
The slots were returned by Spirit Airlines after it ceased operations at Washington National in September.
Southwest has applied for the slots to launch non-stop service between Washington National and Houston Hobby Airport, which it hopes to begin in the spring of 2013 if it is awarded the slots.
In its application, it points out that current fares between Washington National and Houston are more than 60% higher than its fares between Houston Hobby and Baltimore-Washington International, which it currently serves. United Airlines operates several times a day between Washington National and Houston George Bush Intercontinental.
JetBlue applied to use the slots for non-stop service between Washington National and Jacksonville, Florida with continuing service to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It plans to operate the service with Airbus A320 aircraft.
JetBlue, referencing US Airways' monopoly on the Washington National-Jacksonville route, says: "With the introduction of new low fare competitive service, JetBlue expects that traffic in the DCA-JAX market will grow by 50%, with average fares falling by at least 30% in the first year of service."
US Airways says in its application that it plans to use the slots to launch service between Washington National and Oklahoma City, a route that is not served by any airline.
It also plans to launch two daily round-trips between Oklahoma City and Charlotte, which will begin on the same day as the planned Washington National service.
US Airways says in its application that over 38,400 passengers travel annually between Washington National and Oklahoma City, but Oklahoma City is the largest metropolitan area lacking service to Washington National.
Spirit ceased operations at Washington National in September, choosing to move its operations to Baltimore-Washington Airport, where it now operates twice daily to Fort Lauderdale and once daily to Dallas-Fort Worth.
With its exit from Washington National, it put up four slots at Washington National for sale earlier this year. Southwest bought these slots and used them to launch new service between Washington National and Lambert-St Louis International Airport.