Slots deal made cloture on aviation bill possible

The issue of long-distance carrier slots at Reagan Washington National Airport was partially resolved, but enough apparently to smooth the way for final passage of the Senate’s aviation funding bill.

The debate over whether to add long-distance slots at Reagan had stalled movement for weeks on reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding. While some senators wanted more slots at the Washington airport to make it more convenient for constituents to visit the nation’s capital, senators whose districts include Dulles Airport and Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI), both about 30 miles from the city, feared a loss of traffic at those airports.

A compromise was reached and, on Thursday, the Senate passed an amendment by unanimous consent that adds 16 long-distance slots at Reagan National. The agreement should allow for final passage of the aviation bill.

"Every stake holder gave ground to pass the amendment," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas.) who led negations. "No one is happy and no one is unhappy."

Sources say senators worked deep into Wednesday night crafting a compromise. At times the entire negotiation process nearly fell apart.

Because of that agreement, and other agreements, all but two senators voted to end debate on the FAA bill Thursday.

The slot issue, however, is still not completely settled.

The agreement deferred the question of which carriers will take the new long-distance slots at Reagan National. Those decisions will be made when select members of the House and Senate meet to hash out differences in the chambers’ respective bills.