US Airways petitioned the Department of Transportation for the slots that would allow it to offer nonstop service between Sarasota-Bradenton and Washington, D.C.
Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has never offered nonstop service to the nation's capital, said SRQ President Fredrick Piccolo. "We're real excited about this. We look at this as an opportunity to grow with them," he said, referring to US Airways, one of the biggest airlines to operate from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
US Airways currently offers service between SRQ and Charlotte, N.C.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is a slot-controlled airport where the number of takeoffs and landings is regulated by the federal government. US Airways is one of several airlines vying for the two slots that have opened.
"It's a very valuable commodity. It shows our market is rising on people's radar screens," Piccolo said.
Seeking slots is very competitive, said aviation consultant Mike Boyd of The Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo. "It is like if you threw a $100 bill on the ground in Times Square, there would scratching, fighting and elbows in the face," he said.
But he believes SRQ has a "very compelling" argument and could demonstrate a significant economic impact.
"Most of those customers are now driving to Tampa for nonstops," Boyd said. "The market looks very good for US Airways and it would increase the ridership at Sarasota. The traffic would be exceedingly strong."
With its emergence from bankruptcy last year, Boyd said the new US Airways management is being aggressive and is "dedicated to making money and making the airline work."
The DOT's verdict over who gets the slots should come before summer. "The DOT will probably decide in May but there is no deadline in which they must decide," said US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder.
In the meantime, Piccolo said it's important for the community to let DOT and congressional representatives know it wants and will support this service.
US Airways emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization and merged with America West Airlines in September 2005. The merger produced the fifth-largest domestic airline.
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