San Antonio one step closer to possible direct flight to Washington, DC


SAN ANTONIO – It’s been a long time coming, but it appears that San Antonio may finally get a nonstop flight to the nation’s capital.

The US House on Wednesday approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill, which will create five new roundtrip flights to Reagan National Airport (DCA). The US Senate approved the bill last week.

Once President Joe Biden signs the bill into law, American Airlines will submit an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation to initiate service from SAT to DCA. The awarding of those five flight slots will be made 60 days after the signing of the bill.

“We have been working for more than a decade to give residents of America’s seventh-largest city the same access to our nation’s leaders as nearly every other major city in the country,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “I am grateful for the hard work of Senator Cruz and our entire congressional delegation and look forward to Secretary Buttigieg’s approval of America’s application to initiate nonstop service from Military City USA to DCA.”

A nonstop flight between San Antonio and Reagan National will save the military and its partners more than 500,000 man-hours annually, a news release said. Additionally, San Antonio is home to the largest concentration of intelligence and cybersecurity professionals outside of the national capital region.

Dave Peterson, executive vice president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce is among the local leaders pushing for the new flight.

“San Antonio needs this flight,” he said. “It absolutely is essential for our DoD presence. Our military members work long, hard hours and making their flights and their challenges to get in and out of the nation’s capital harder does not help our population that likes to travel.”

Currently, there are no direct flights from SAT to DCA, requiring San Antonio travelers to make connections through other airports or take ground transportation from Dulles International Airport or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Washington, D.C., adding both time and costs to their itineraries. San Antonio has repeatedly been blocked in its efforts to get direct flights from DCA, putting it at a competitive disadvantage, a news release said.

“There’s nobody can actually have that direct flight without Washington, without changing the law,” said Rep. Chip Roy – (R) Texas District 21. He’s among the group of bipartisan leaders advocating for the nonstop route.

Getting a direct flight to DCA, or Reagan National Airport, in Washington, D.C., has been a longtime challenge for San Antonio because of the Perimeter Rule, which dates back to 1966. It restricts nonstop flights to DCA to within 1,250 miles of that airport. San Antonio is 1,600 miles away.

“It’s literally taking an act of Congress to get it done,” said reporter Daniela Ibarra.

“It absolutely is,” said Peterson. “And it’s failed multiple times.”

While it’s still a few steps away from reality, Nirenberg said he’s determined to get the flights to the Alamo City.

“If everything’s played the way it should, and we continue to see the execution from our delegation, our community — we’re gonna get that flight,” he said.

Nirenberg said San Antonio could see a flight to DCA within months, pending FAA approval.

American Airlines’ nonstop service would increase competition for Texas consumers by adding a fourth carrier flying from SAT to a third different airport in the DC/Maryland/Virginia region and providing connectivity to numerous other airports in the Northeast United States via American’s hub at DCA. Based on the number of daily passengers currently traveling each way between the two airports, DCA is one of the largest unserved markets from SAT.

“I am thrilled that the City of San Antonio is now positioned to directly access our nation’s capital with a non-stop flight into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said US Sen. Ted Cruz, who worked with the chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to get the bill passed. “By working together, we overcame fierce opposition to my bipartisan provision expanding long-haul flights to Reagan National. “I will be pressing the U.S. Department of Transportation to swiftly approve applications for the five long-haul flights that I successfully included in this year’s FAA reauthorization bill and look forward to being on the first direct San Antonio-Reagan National flight later this year.”