Direct SA to Washington Reagan Flight Seen as Critical to Keeping Bases

City officials on Tuesday got an idea of just how big a deal that proposed direct flight from San Antonio to Washington National Airport is, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

City Government and Public Affairs Director Jeff Coyle told the Council Governance Committee that United and American Airlines and Dulles International Airport in Virginia paid a total of $4 million in lobbying to try to get the U.S. House to reject the Cuellar Amendment, which would have allowed an airline to offer the flight.  

The Airlines fought the proposal to try to avoid competition from Southwest Airlines, which has offered to fly the route if it is approved by Congress, and Dulles is afraid of losing business if San Antonio flights are routed to Washington National instead.

Coyle says the opponents put out misleading advertising, warning members of Congress that allowing San Antonio to Washington National Flights would endanger flights from their cities to Washington, circulating material with titles like 'Don't lose your flights to D.C, Your D.C. Access is at Risk!.'

He says the machinists union even urged its members to flood Congress with letters opposing the Cuellar Amendment, claiming, completely without foundation, that it could 'cause them to lose their pensions' by costing United and American Airlines money.

San Antonio has fought for years to establish a non stop flight to Washington Reagan National, which is on the Potomac right across the river from the Pentagon.  As San Antonio ramps up its cyber warfare capabilities, local officials say that flight is particularly critical.

And Councilman and retired USAF Lt. Colonel Clayton Perry says the flight means more than just a boost for cyber security.  He says if the city can't show a direct link to the Pentagon, it could turn out to be a major negative when San Antonio tries to convince the next Base Realignment and Closure Commission to maintain missions in San Antonio and create new ones.

"They take a look at this, just as much as 'do you have adequate space for us,' and 'do you have enough support here in town,' they look at this just importantly as whether they can get back and forth to the Pentagon," Perry said.

"If we can't get this turned around in some shape, form, or fashion, this will be an additional hit on San Antonio being able to support the military here in the future."

Coyle said an effort is being mounted in the Senate to attach the amendment onto the FAA reauthorization bill there.

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