Some data came over the transom this week from the airline trade group Airlines for America, which suggested that Reagan National Airport – which has been terribly negatively affected by the impact of the COVID era – was primed for a major comeback in the fourth quarter.
Total airline flights expected at the airport for the October-November-December period are down just 11 percent from the same period in 2019, better than the national expected dropoff of 14 percent.
That’s a big change from the past 18 months, when Reagan National saw flights and passengers desert in droves compared to pre-COVID times.
But there’s a reason for everything, and here it is: The FAA has determined that, starting in November, airlines with coveted take-off and landing “slots” at capacity-restricted DCA are going to have to start using them all, or risk having them taken away.
During most of the COVID period, airlines had exemptions, so they didn’t have to run all the flights they had slots for. And why would they, if passengers weren’t there?
But now they’re going to have to, which leads to an interesting question – how full will these flights be, and how low will the airlines go in offering good deals to fill them?
Both interesting questions, and both worth watching, particularly if you’re looking for a travel bargain over the coming holiday season. Never hurts to take a look, after all.
And starting roughly on Nov. 9, Reagan National will debut its new TSA screening facilities, designed for a smoother experience for passengers. If the newfangled facility’s equipment works, and if there are enough personnel to staff it, it will be another step in the right direction at the local airport that, despite the COVID crisis, has seen a number of significant improvements over the past two years.
- Scott McCaffrey