Transportation Ruling May Impact Roanoke Air Service

The Department of Transportation has published a ruling approving a transfer of “slots” (landing and takeoff rights) between US Airways and Delta Airlines at Washington Reagan International and New York LaGuardia Airports. The reallocation of slot privileges has the possibility of impacting non-stop service from the Roanoke Regional Airport to New York/LaGuardia.

As US Airways divests itself of LaGuardia slots, it is unknown whether the airline will continue the three daily non-stop flights between Roanoke and LaGuardia or whether Delta Airlines will begin similar service. Only non-stop service is of concern, since Roanoke Regional Airport passengers will continue to have one-stop service to and from New York City through a variety of connecting hubs.

Although US Airways and Delta were both reluctant to discuss possible service changes with the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission while DOT’s decision-making process was incomplete, the Commission now expects that discussions will resume with each carrier for the preservation of non-stop service between Roanoke Regional Airport and NY/LaGuardia.

“We are extremely grateful to our elected officials, members of the business community, and numerous travelers who submitted written comments expressing their concerns to the Department of Transportation,” said Jacqueline Shuck, Executive Director for the Roanoke Regional Airport Commission.  “Roanoke was specifically mentioned in the final ruling, so we know our comments were heard. The many letters sent to the Department of Transportation from area elected, civic and business leaders guaranteed that the DOT was fully aware of Southwest Virginia’s position. Now the Airport Commission will continue the work of convincing the airlines of the strength of our market to and from New York City and doing whatever is necessary to preserve the non-stop service. ”

Congressman Bob Goodlatte issued a statement Wednesday saying, “While I have had concerns regarding this slot swap agreement, due in large part to the deal’s effect on smaller communities, like Roanoke, I am committed to working with the local community and Delta to preserve access to the New York market,” said Goodlatte.  “In conversations I have had with Delta, they have been receptive to the idea of maintaining service between Roanoke and New York and I look forward to working with them to ensure that happens.”

Congressman Goodlatte, along with other members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, has previously written to Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood expressing concern over the “slot-swap” agreement between Delta and U.S. Airways.  Access to the preeminent financial center in the country has proven vital to the employment base of the Roanoke Valley, the business community and economic development efforts.

While it is too soon to know if or how this ruling will impact service at the Roanoke Regional Airport, any service changes would likely take a number of months to implement and should not impact passengers who are traveling over the next few months.

The Roanoke Regional Airport is the primary commercial airport for Southwest Virginia; it serves more than 635,000 passengers per year with non-stop service to nine cities and one-stop access to nearly 500 cities around the world.  The Roanoke Regional Airport Commission is responsible for an annual economic impact of more than $216,000,000.

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