San Antonio leaders push for direct flights to Washington, D.C., but it won't be easy

Ted Cruz said a proposed federal rule change would work in SA's favor, but the city would still need to convince an airline to add the flights.

click to enlarge Sen. Ted Cruz delivers remarks during a Friday press conference. - Brandon Rodriguez
Brandon Rodriguez
Sen. Ted Cruz delivers remarks during a Friday press conference.
During a Friday news conference, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz joined San Antonio leaders in trumpeting efforts to enact a federal aviation rule change that would enable San Antonio to have direct flights to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

“Military City USA, on the merits, deserves direct flights to and from [Washington],” Cruz said at the presser held at San Antonio International Airport.

Local officials have called for nonstop service to Washington for years, and Cruz argued that changing the federal rule limiting Reagan's direct flights would be a first step to making that happen.

Cruz, who's running for reelection, is a ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The committee is working through an FAA reauthorization bill which could include the rule change allowing direct flights from San Antonio International to Reagan.

But experts warn that even if the rule changes, the Alamo City may have a hard time convincing an airline to give it direct flights to D.C. based on its passenger numbers. During the FAA's 2022 fiscal year, San Antonio International ranked 45th in the nation when it came to air-passengers volumes.

“I would hope the airport and city are not being misled by jive consultants into thinking this is a jump-ball market for several airlines,” said Denver-based Aviation consultant Michael Boyd of Boyd Group International.

Should slots open up at Reagan National, American Airlines would be the only carrier that could make San Antonio's dream a reality, Boyd said. AA is the largest passenger carrier at the airport and it has the ability to carry additional connecting passengers, he added.

“So, that's the bottom line of the whole thing — whether or not it gets down to this — [is whether] American Airlines wants to do it,” said Boyd to the Current. “Not Delta, JetBlue, Spirit.

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