The U.S. Department of Transportation announced May 14 the approval of nonstop flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.
The federal government selected Southwest Airlines for the new route, which is likely to begin this summer.
Flight access to Reagan National from cities farther than 1,250 miles from Washington, D.C., is limited due to the airport's small size and its proximity to major government agencies and facilities.
A new law allowed for the addition of nonstop service to four cities. The others chosen include Portland, San Francisco and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“These new flights will provide convenient nonstop service to our nation’s capital for travelers from four major cities,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The flights will increase competition for airlines serving Washington, which can lead to lower fares for consumers."
According to Southwest, 12,000 petitioners, as well as dozens of community and political leaders, expressed support for the service through Southwest's website or letters submitted with their application for the nonstop .
JetBlue Airways—which won the San Juan service—also placed a bid for Austin, but requested it be granted only if its San Juan application was granted first.
According to the federal government's official order, the range and scale of benefits resulting from an award to Southwest, particularly in the areas of aircraft capacity and beyond markets, are superior to that of JetBlue.
Further, it stated that Southwest’s application would enhance options for nonstop travel, have a positive impact on competition and produce public benefits including lower fares.
Current fares for connecting service between Austin-Bergstrom and Reagan National are more than 50 percent higher than the airline's average fare for the same distance.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell was among those who submitted a letter of support to the DOT. He touted the benefits of reduced fare and travel time—at least two hours in each direction—between the two capital cities.
"Not only in my city, but across all of Central Texas, the AUS-DCA (Austin-Bergstrom to Reagan National) service will improve travel options for more than 5 million people," he said.