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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

WA Delegation Members Urge DOT to Approve the First D.C.-Portland Nonstop Service

Recently enacted FAA reauthorization adds 8 flights from D.C. to Western cities; Alaska Airlines requesting 1 for Portland

Monday, March 12,2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent today to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood, the entire Washington state Congressional delegation expressed its strong support of Alaska Airlines’ request to provide the first nonstop service from Portland (PDX) to Washington Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. (DCA). DOT has until May 14th to make its decision.

The recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act increases direct access to Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C.’s nearest airport, from more Western cities by adding eight more nonstop flights. This could benefit businesses that need to fly directly to the nation’s capital as well as provides greater access for Washingtonians visiting the nation’s capital.

“Alaska has the largest hub presence of any carrier at PDX with over 625 weekly flights,” the members wrote in the letter sent today. “This frequency assures Alaska has the necessary connecting traffic coupled with local PDX-DCA travelers to easily support one daily PDX-DCA frequency.”

“Our residents would welcome the opportunity to have another convenient Pacific Northwest connecting option for travel to DCA,” the members continued. “Alaska Airlines enjoys the singular status of being the only network carrier not to have declared bankruptcy. The company’s solid financial position, award-winning customer service, and strong operational performance will provide residents of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest sustained service to our nation’s capital.”

“Southwest Washington businesses would benefit from better access to our nation’s capital and the East Coast’s thriving technology industry,” said Lisa Nisenfeld, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. “A single, direct flight from Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. to Portland will make this region more accessible and attractive to businesses, helping to grow our regional economy.”

As chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell was a Congressional leader in enacting the FAA bill, which reauthorizes the FAA through 2015, accelerates the air traffic control system’s conversion to a GPS-based network, known as NextGen, and provides stable funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to invest in airport infrastructure.

The FAA reauthorization bill will support approximately 12,000 new and existing construction and related jobs in Washington state over the next four years, as airports receive grants under the Airport Improvement Program to enhance airport safety, capacity, security, and improve environmental protections. For additional information on the various provisions of the bill, click here.

The FAA modernization comes at a crucial time. America’s passengers and cargo airlines drive nearly 11 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, yet America is the only Western nation that still relies on a 60-year-old, ground-based air traffic control system instead of the more efficient, satellite-based system used by other developed nations. Projections indicate a significant increase in demand for air travel over the next 15 years, and the nation’s current air traffic system is quickly reaching its capacity.

The complete text of the letter sent today follows:

March 12, 2012

The Honorable Ray LaHood

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, D.C.  20590

Dear Secretary LaHood,

The Congressional Delegation of Washington would like to register our strong support for Alaska Airlines’ request to provide the first Portland, OR (“PDX”)-Reagan Washington National Airport (“DCA”) nonstop service.  We understand that Alaska has applied for one of the four new limited incumbent carrier DCA beyond-perimeter roundtrips authorized by the recently signed FAA Modernization and Reform Act.

Alaska has the largest hub presence of any carrier at PDX with over 625 weekly flights. This frequency assures Alaska has the necessary connecting traffic coupled with local PDX-DCA travelers to easily support one daily PDX-DCA frequency.  We know from experience that Alaska’s SEA-DCA nonstop service operates at high load factors (the company informs us that its average load factor for the 12 months ended October 2011 was 91%).  Therefore, our residents would welcome the opportunity to have another convenient Pacific Northwest connecting option for travel to DCA.

Alaska Airlines enjoys the singular status of being the only network carrier not to have declared bankruptcy.  The company’s solid financial position, award-winning customer service, and strong operational performance will provide residents of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest sustained service to our nation’s capital.

We would be pleased to answer any questions you or your staff might have and do look forward to Alaska having the opportunity to initiate the first PDX-DCA nonstop service.

Sincerely,

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