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Air India, El Al and WestJet eye Washington DC service

Air India, El Al and WestJet are all actively considering adding new service to the Washington DC region by 2018, as the local airport operator works to increase air service to the US capital.

Executives from each of the carriers have expressed interest in serving Washington DC in separate meetings with officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports, since June, an internal airline business development report for MWAA's board shows.

Air India is considering a new Delhi-Dulles nonstop, El Al a Tel Aviv-Dulles flight and WestJet service to one of the DC area’s three airports – Baltimore/Washington International, Dulles and National – from Toronto, it says.

Delhi and Tel Aviv would be new nonstop destinations from the Washington DC region, FlightGlobal schedules show. Toronto is the most competitive market with service on Air Canada to all three airports, and both Porter Airlines and United to Dulles.

Delhi-based Air India would like to launch a capital-to-capital route to Dulles from the spring of 2017, the Star Alliance carrier’s chairman Ashwani Lohani told MWAA officials at a meeting in September. However, he expressed concern with operating costs at the airport and asked about incentives, the report states.

MWAA is discussing potential incentive packages for Air India with officials from both Virginia and Washington DC, it adds.

The airport operator proposed a three-times weekly Tel Aviv-Dulles flight to El Al at a meeting with its chief executive, David Maimon, in July, the report shows. Airline officials have told MWAA that they are considering the route with a possible launch in 2018.

El Al was not immediately available for comment.

WestJet prefers to serve close-in National from its Toronto hub but is considering either Baltimore or Dulles due to slot constraints at National, airline executives told MWAA officials at meetings in May and June the report says.

The Calgary-based low-cost carrier has reservations about both Baltimore and Dulles. The former benefits from less competition and lower costs but provides fewer international codeshare opportunities, while the latter benefits from a high number of international codeshare possibilities but has more competition and higher costs, the report shows.

WestJet told MWAA officials that they would conduct a “major study” of the DC market during the summer.

A spokesman for the airline declines to comment, saying they do not discuss network planning matters publicly.

"We continually work with airlines regarding new air service opportunities at BWI," says a Baltimore airport spokesman.

Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Southwest Airlines and TAP Portugal are also on MWAA’s air service development wish list. The operator hopes to land a new Dulles-Portland (Oregon) nonstop on Alaska and a Dulles-Hong Kong nonstop on Cathay Pacific, the report says.

Alaska executives told MWAA at the World Routes conference in September that they are considering increased service to Dulles in 2017, but does not mention possible routings. The carrier serves the airport from its Seattle Tacoma base.

Cathay Pacific executives told the operator in September that they would consider potential Washington Dulles service from 2019 when they receive an aircraft with the range for a nonstop from Hong Kong, the report states.

Southwest has sought a meeting with MWAA early in 2017 to discuss the possibility of additional Florida service from Dulles, the report states. It highlights Fort Lauderdale, where the Dallas-based carrier has an expanding base, as a possible destination.

Southwest serves Dulles from Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando, FlightGlobal schedules show.

TAP is “again considering” serving Dulles from Lisbon, the report adds.

Any of the new routes outlined in the report would complement MWAA's recent air service development success at Dulles. Aer Lingus, Air China and LATAM Airlines have added the airport to their networks while Royal Air Maroc and South African Airways (SAA) have expanded their operations.

In addition, Dulles hub carrier United is expanding after significant capacity cuts. Former vice-president of network Brian Znotins told FlightGlobal in September that capacity will be up about 6% during the second half of the year compared to the first half.

MWAA says the airline business development report, which was posted on their website this morning, was “unintentionally published” and declines to comment further.

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