- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

Fifty flights were allowed to resume yesterday from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in a step toward restoring the airport to its pre-September 11 level of operation.
But none did.
Nine airlines were given authorization Dec. 21 by the Department of Transportation to resume daily flights to 14 cities, including Montreal. But instead of bustling with more airplanes and travelers, traffic at Reagan Airport was slow yesterday.
After the terrorist attacks, the airport was closed for 23 days, until Oct. 4, the longest shutdown in the nation. Since then, DOT has allowed the airport to resume service gradually. The airport will be back at 77 percent of its pre-attack levels in March.
If the 50 flights had resumed yesterday, the airport would be operating at 60 percent of its pre-attack capacity, estimated Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, which runs Reagan and Washington Dulles International airports.
"The DOT said, 'Starting on this date, you may resume service to these cities,' but the airlines are not required to," she said.
The reasons for the delay run the gamut. Some are putting off service while switching flights that were departing from Dulles. Others are waiting for the change to coincide with already-planned updates in their schedules.
"The airlines may have felt they wanted to wait until they update their schedules, whenever that may be, or it could be any number of reasons, like marketing or operations," said WilliamShumann, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
US Airways, based in Arlington and the carrier with the biggest presence at Reagan Airport, is one of the airlines waiting for a schedule update. The airline's new systemwide update is expected to kick in Sunday, when it will add 17 daily flights.
National Airlines has a different problem its planes are too big.
The Las Vegas airline was allowed to resume three daily flights to its hometown yesterday. But DOT has specified that aircraft serving Reagan Airport must have no more than 156 seats. National Airlines' smallest planes have 176 seats.
"We are waiting for [the Federal Aviation Administration] or DOT approval to operate our fleet into the airport, and no one has given us that," said Dik Shimizu, spokesman for the airline. "We would begin as soon as we possibly could, but it could take a bit of time."
After the attacks, the airline moved its three Washington departures to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Now the airline has to change its schedule.
Another airline scheduled to resume service yesterday was Midway Airlines. But the Raleigh, N.C.-based carrier is recovering from bankruptcy and is slowly restarting service as it hires pilots and other staff.
The carrier, which declared bankruptcy in August, received $10.1 million in government aid last month. Midway had canceled all flights when it filed for bankruptcy. But the day after the attacks, it said it would never restart operations and fired 1,700 workers, predicting that air travel would slump.
It is not clear when the airline will resume service at Reagan Airport. Airline officials did not return phone calls yesterday.
Carriers that plan to restart flights have run into financial difficulties. Continental Airlines expects to resume some, but not all, of its flights into Reagan Airport.
"We are focusing on our hub communities," said Rahsaan Johnson, spokesman for Continental, which has permanently discontinued its Continental Express service to White Plains, N.Y., from Reagan Airport.
"Post-September 11 with our schedule changes, we are focusing on flying the strongest routes in our network, and out of Washington our three hubs are definitely the strongest," Mr. Johnson said.
Continental has resumed flights from Reagan Airport to Newark, N.J., and its Houston headquarters. On Jan. 17, the airline will reinstate its three daily flights to Cleveland.
Northwest Airlines also was given permission to resume service. Three daily flights to Memphis, Tenn., will resume Jan. 31, carrier spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said.
The airline had moved the flights to Dulles while Reagan's schedule was limited.
The Memphis route completes Northwest's pre-September 11 destination list. But the airline is still far from operating the same number of flights.
The largest airlines have cut their flight schedules by 20 percent.


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