LANSING - A direct flight to Washington, D.C. from the Capitol Region International Airport will resume this summer.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted American Airlines a slot exemption to provide the service after Sun Country Airlines stopped offering its Lansing-to-D.C. flight in October.
American Airlines could offer daily flights from Lansing to the Washington Reagan National Airport as soon as June 29, said Robert Selig, airport president and CEO. It's proposing a 7 a.m. flight from Lansing to Washington, D.C. and a 5:30 p.m. return flight daily. Flights can carry 76 passengers.
"People can really do a day's work there without having to stay another day," Selig said. "It's a great leap forward for us. This will make a big difference in the airport budget. It's been no secret that we've been struggling."
The airport was facing a $1.3 million deficit for its 2017 budget, which starts in July, due to the departure of Sun Country and Allegiant Air, which provided flights to Orlando and left in February 2015. American Airline's new D.C. route will help bridge that budget gap, bringing more passengers to the airport, Selig said.
The airport reached its peak traffic in 1997 with 720,365 total passengers. By 2009, the first full year of the recession, those numbers had plummeted to 265,967 but steadily crept back up to 418,850 in 2013. In 2014, the number dipped to 376,912 passengers and again in 2015 to 323,510.
"This will increase those numbers of passengers," said Chris Holman, chair of the Capital Region Airport Authority board. "It will turn the budget to where we won't have to lay people off."
American Airlines also plans to offer three daily flights to Chicago later on. From both Chicago and D.C., passengers can connect to numerous destinations, Holman said.
"This is a real economic boost, not just for the airport, but for the community," Holman said.
When American Airlines announced its bid in August, USDOT and the federal Aviation Administration received roughly 1,200 letters of support from government officials, business owners, special interest groups and residents in the region. Delta Air Lines, which offers daily non-stop flights to Detroit and Minneapolis, also was vying for the route.
"Those letters exhorting the need for service was huge," Holman said. "This is the payoff of all their letters."
The official start date, schedule and fares for the Lansing-Washington, D.C., and Lansing-Chicago routes have not yet been established.
Original article can be found here: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/