Augusta Regional Airport losing nonstop flight to Washington, D.C.

Airline gave up 52 slots to end lawsuit
American Airlines said that nonstop flights from Augusta Regional Airport to Washington's Reagan National Airport will no longer be available for local passengers.

American Airlines Group announced Wednesday it’s ending nonstop service from Augusta Regional Airport to Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

Augusta was one of 17 cities that lost direct flights to Reagan National as part of American’s merger with US Airways, according to a news release.

The merged airline – now the world’s biggest airline operator – agreed in November to give up 52 slots at Reagan National to avoid an advantage and majority control of slots. In exchange, the U.S. Justice Department dropped an antitrust lawsuit.

US Airways started service from Augusta to Washington on July 11, 2012. The 50-passenger flight targeted travelers from Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site, Plant Vogtle and other employers that conduct business in Washington.

The date of the last direct flight will not be known until the sale of the slots is finalized in the weeks ahead.

Local business and political leaders lobbied to save the flight, emphasizing the flight’s importance to the Augusta area’s economy.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst for consulting firm Hudson Crossing, noted that American is pulling out of several nonstop routes also flown by rival Delta Air Lines Inc., including Reagan to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis and LaGuardia to Atlanta. At the same time, American will add a second daily nonstop between Washington and Los Angeles, and start new service to New York from secondary markets.

"This is American creating a truce with Delta," he said. "It's a smart move ... where you're not as strong, move your assets."

American's chief marketing officer, Andrew Nocella, said the changes were designed to minimize the effect of slot losses on service to smaller cities. He said the new combined airline "will fly more customers to more places than ever before."

Besides Detroit and San Diego, daily nonstops by American and US Airways will end between Reagan and Minneapolis; Montreal; Augusta and Savannah, Ga.; Fayetteville and Jacksonville, N.C.; Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola and Tallahassee, Fla.; Islip, N.Y.; Little Rock, Ark.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Nassau, Bahamas; and Omaha, Neb. It will switch from year-round to only seasonal flying to Fort Myers, Fla.

The company said dates for the changes would be announced in coming weeks. Travelers in those cities will have to fly through another American or US Airways hub city — or take another airline —to reach Washington.

Service will be added beginning April 1 between LaGuardia and Charlottesville, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke, Va.; Little Rock; Dayton, Ohio; Louisville, Ky.; Greensboro and Wilmington, N.C.; and Knoxville, Tenn.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. fell 3 cents to close at $28.84.

Reports from the Associated Press were used in this story.

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