Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Adding nonstop flight service between San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) will be among local officials and business leaders' top priorities during the forthcoming "S.A. to D.C." lobbying trip, Feb. 13-16.
City Council adopted several measures in the City's federal legislative slate as part of the consent agenda Thursday. Local officials have long been working on ways to increase nonstop flights to various hubs around the country and Mexico to attract more business and visitors to San Antonio.
Allowing nonstop flights to Reagan would be mutually beneficial because of San Antonio's strong military presence and increasing overall population, said Jeff Coyle, the City's Government and Public Affairs director.
"Reagan Airport is a strange, unique situation," Coyle said. The airport, located close to downtown D.C., is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the government entity with the power to permit or prohibit nonstop flights to Reagan. "To limit congestion and noise, they limit the flights that come in there," he added.
Federal regulation currently restricts nonstop flights to Reagan from outside a 1,250-mile perimeter. Dallas and Houston are inside the zone, whereas San Antonio is not. Congress could, however, grant what Coyle called a slot exemption. Cities such as Austin, Phoenix, Denver and Portland, Ore., have been given slot exemptions.
"We've yet to get [a waiver]," he said. "San Antonio is the largest medium hub outside of that perimeter that cannot fly nonstop into Reagan. It's time. San Antonio needs a nonstop flight to Reagan."
For the past 39 years, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce has taken a delegation of business and civic leaders to Washington, D.C. to meet with key members of Congress, White House officials, cabinet members and military leaders.
Councilman Joe Krier (D9) is optimistic that the City will be able to make more progress than it has in the past.
"There will be new folks at the FAA and new folks overseeing the reauthorization of the FAA," he said.
Managing partner Louis Dupart, with his years of federal aviation consulting and lobbying experience, will be instrumental to the effort, as will former U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio), who also works with the Normandy Group.
"We were convinced we needed to bring to the table some really specialized expertise," Coyle said of Dupart. His and Bonilla's combined experience and connections will help the City get a foothold in D.C. as the Trump administration asserts itself, Coyle added.
"One of the great things about a new presidential administration is that the City gets to develop a whole new set of relationships," Krier said.
Coyle and Krier said protecting San Antonio's military assets and getting more surface transportation funding to Texas will be further priorities for the D.C. trip.
Krier said he looks forward to seeing how the new Congress and presidential administration will view the local delegation's request for greater say on the distribution of federal transportation dollars.
"We're long overdue for equity on how those funds get distributed," he added.