San Antonio's latest bid to score a non-stop flight to Washington D.C.'s Reagan International has crashed and burned just after liftoff, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Earlier this week, a Congressional Rules Committee allowed a vote on an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill. Because Congress controls flights in and out of Reagan, these lengthy steps are needed for cities outside of a 1250 mile bubble around the D.C. airport.
Amendment number 147 would allow airlines the option to provide nonstop service from airports near military medical facilities, which would include San Antonio.
There was supposed to be a vote today on that amendment itself, but late yesterday, it was pulled over the objection of lobbyists for United and American Airlines, who reportedly told pensioners that it would be a financial blow. That scuttled what support the Texas contingent had rallied.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who lobbied for airport reform in his latest State of the County speech, was disappointed. He says with San Antonio's ties to the military and especially their cyber command, this direct access is an issue of national security.
"If we had that direct flight, it would enhance our military missions here., Wolff told News Radio 1200 WOAI.
At the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Richard Perez has been working for one decade to get that direct flight to Reagan, which he says would be a game changer when it comes to military contractors.
"Even though we've got airlines that have submitted letters of support, others have said no, and they're big players. So, we need to be more thoughtful going forward."
And while San Antonio lost this battle, he says the war is not over. The plan is to regroup with city leaders, including a group that's currently studying how to improve the airport.
Congressman Will Hurd, who is part of the San Antonio delegation that was pushing for the rule change is confident that, eventually a flight will be added. He points to the more than 80,000 military and civilian professionals, the Department of Defense’s only Level 1 Trauma Center and two VA Hospitals that serve the nation’s largest active and retired military population.
“A nonstop flight to DCA would save the military countless hours and taxpayer dollars that could be spent on critical national security needs."
This was a bipartisan amendment that would have improved access to the entire region and it is disappointing that this amendment was brought to the 5-yard line, but forced to be pulled because United and America Airlines misled our fellow members and the public-at-large using scare tactics and completely false information,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), the author of the proposal.
“These airlines falsely claimed that we were going to undermine retirees’ pensions, diminish passenger safety, threaten service in more than half the country, and many other things that were demonstrably false. By undercutting this proposal and misrepresenting our intent, they robbed our military, veterans, military contractors, and their families in San Antonio of greater service options they deserved. The free market should determine where airlines and passengers fly, not lobbyists and arcane provisions in the law. Our commitment to increasing access to San Antonio and the region at large has not wavered and we will renew efforts to educate our fellow members with facts so that when we pursue this again the public interest, rather than the special interest, will prevail."