Cantwell Hails DOT’s Approval of the First D.C.-Portland Nonstop Flight

New FAA reauthorization Cantwell championed adds 8 flights from D.C. to Western cities; Alaska Airlines selected to provide service from Portland

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hailed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) approval of Alaska Airlines’ request to provide the first nonstop service from Portland (PDX) to Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C.’s nearest airport. The new service is made possible by the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, which increases direct access to DCA from more Western cities by adding eight more nonstop flights.

As Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell was a Congressional leader in championing the reauthorization and pushing for Portland-DCA service. On March 12, Cantwell led the entire Washington state Congressional delegation in sending a letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in strong support of Alaska Airlines’ bid to provide nonstop service between PDX and DCA.

“Southwest Washington and Greater Portland residents will now have direct access to their nation’s capital,” Cantwell said. “This direct flight will support business growth and jobs in Southwest Washington and Oregon, and it will make the Pacific Northwest more accessible and attractive to East Coast businesses and tourists. That's one reason I fought hard in the FAA bill to increase Western flights to Washington, D.C. and urged DOT to strongly consider Alaska Airlines’ bid to provide the first nonstop service from Portland.”

Adding nonstop PDX-DCA service benefits businesses that need to fly directly to the nation’s capital as well as provides greater access for Washingtonians visiting the nation’s capital. Portland International Airport is the second busiest airport (after Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) in terms of Washingtonians served. Last year, roughly three million Washington residents flew out of PDX. Of the 10,000 or so people that work at PDX, approximately one-third are Washington residents.

“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.”

The new PDX-DCA nonstop service could also help attract more travelers from the East Coast to visit southwest Washington’s natural wonders, such as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, which still shows signs of the major eruption in 1980, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Washington-Reagan National Airport serves the Washington Metropolitan Area, which has a population of more than 5.5 million, the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country.

“We are thrilled that Alaska Airlines will be providing direct flights from Reagan National Airport to Portland International,” said Kim Bennett, President and CEO of the Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office. “Not only will these direct flights support our growing business and industry sectors here on the West Coast, but with summer approaching there are so many natural and historic attractions for tourists to enjoy just minutes from Portland International Airport including Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument; the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area; and historic Fort Vancouver, which was settled 30 years before Vancouver, BC.    With our year round mild climate and spectacular scenic beauty, we are a natural draw for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts! These additional flights will undoubtedly bring more east coast travel our way to discover the ‘other Washington’ and the ‘original Vancouver’!”

The recently enacted law 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.