- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

The Department of Transportation will allow flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to 18 additional destinations beginning next Friday, provided those airports put in place tough security measures to prevent future hijackings.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta yesterday promised continued close attention to the airport. It has faced the most stringent restrictions of any in the nation due to its proximity to the White House, the Capitol and other key federal buildings.
"Reagan National Airport is an important symbol of the enduring strength of our nation," Mr. Mineta said.
Local lawmakers reacted positively, but warned that without more passengers buying tickets, the second phase of expanding operations at the airport would do little to benefit the region's economy.
"This is good news," said Rep. James P. Moran, the Virginia Democrat in whose district the airport lies. "But right now, it's not so much the number of flights as it is the number of people who are not flying."
The department had announced, when the airport reopened Oct. 4, that it would add 10 destinations to the original eight by next week. Instead, it announced the addition of 17 cities and another airport, Chicago Midway.
Included are cities that are the furthest destinations to which planes from Reagan Airport fly, including Seattle, Denver and Phoenix.
At the same time, the number of flights to and from the airport will miss the original target of 450, reaching only 414.
While substantially more than the approximately 190 flights during the opening phase, the new totals will leave the airport's schedule far below the 792 flights before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
A third phase, scheduled for mid-December, is expected to bring the airport up to pre-attack levels, though airlines cautioned that the number of flights will depend on demand.
The airlines have already cut their schedules by about 20 percent in response to weak demand. Last week, airlines carried 25 percent fewer passengers than one year ago, according to the Air Transport Association.
The new security guidelines, already in place for the eight airports linked to Reagan, aim to ensure that it is surrounded by extra protection on both the airlines that use the airport and at the destinations to which they fly. For example, the airports will have to maintain specially secured gates for their flights to Reagan Airport.
The airlines also will have to dedicate flight crews that work only on flights to Reagan and will not be able to use the Potomac River approach that helped minimize noise in the surrounding communities.
Transportation officials said the expanded list of cities aims to help out as many companies in the embattled airline industry as possible. "We were trying to open service that gave every airline that wanted it a slice of the action," said Read van der Water, assistant secretary of transportation for aviation and international affairs.
The list gives Arlington-based US Airways permission to serve 11 destinations from Reagan Airport, far more than any other airline. Delta Air Lines of Atlanta will serve six cities, while Dallas-based American Airlines will fly to five destinations.
At the same time, the plan leaves US Airways far below its peak of 186 flights before the attacks, though President and Chief Executive Officer Rakesh Gangwal promised to ramp up service at the airport.
"We look forward to continuing to rebuild the US Airways service pattern at Reagan National as soon as possible," Mr. Gangwal said.
US Airways is the largest tenant at Reagan Airport, with 40 percent of flights. Because the other airlines had fewer flights going through the airport, they are returning to their pre-attack levels much faster, Mrs. van der Water said.
In a surprise to many observers, the list put back into place the transcontinental flights that had been suspended. Mr. Moran hinted that the decision was political, since Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, rammed through legislation authorizing those flights last year over the objections of Virginia legislators, who feared additional noise from the planes.
Mrs. van der Water confirmed that the department heard from many members of Congress, governors and local officials as it drew up the list.
Mr. McCain's office could not be reached for comment.
As a result of the decision, Alaska Airlines will be able to resume flights from Seattle and Anchorage to Reagan Airport.

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