Spirit Airlines loses bid for Reagan airport flights

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Spirit Airlines lost its bid to win the right to operate flights at Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport being vacated by US Airways and American Airlines as part of their merger. 

Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said on a conference call with reporters this week that his company sought to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to take over the D.C. flights but was unsuccessful. 

“We put in a bid at a price that we thought we could keep our target margin returns in place of, and we did not win with that bid,” Baldanza said. “And we're okay with that because we wouldn't want to overpay at the expense of our investors.”

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Flights at Washington’s Reagan National and New York’s LaGuardia airports are regulated by the FAA in an attempt to manage airplane traffic in congested metropolitan areas. Airlines bid for the right to operate routes between the airports and specific destinations in a process known as “slots.”

The Department of Justice required US Air and American to give up 54 pairs of flights, or slots, in exchange for approving their merger last year.

The slots are being distributed to other airlines by the FAA.

The Justice Department argued at the time of its agreement with US Air and American that awarding the vacated slots to low-cost airlines would reduce the potential for US Air and American’s merger to increase airline ticket prices for passengers.

Most of the Reagan National airport slots were awarded to Southwest and JetBlue airlines.

Spirit has frequently run afoul of the Department of Transportation for violating its rules for advertising airline ticket prices.
The airline publicizes fees that are required to be collected by federal regulations as “the government’s take.”