American Airlines won’t drop direct flights between Maine airports and D.C., LaGuardia, Collins announces

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
Alex Greenlee | Special to the BDN
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
Posted Jan. 15, 2014, at 6:44 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s two major airports will retain their direct flights to Washington, D.C., in the wake of the merger of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon.

“I am very pleased that the newly formed American Airlines will continue these essential flights between our nation’s capital and Portland and Bangor, two of Maine’s largest cities,” said Collins, ranking member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. “These flights are not only in high demand from consumers, but are also essential to business development and attraction and to Maine’s critical tourism industry.”

After the merger, American Airlines will become the largest airline on the planet, with more than 6,700 flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries per day, according to the company.

But in order to get that deal done and put to rest a federal antitrust lawsuit, the airline had to agree to give up 52 slot pairs at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) and another 17 at New York LaGuardia (LGA). “Slot pairs” essentially give airlines space to launch departures and arrivals at airport terminals. Those slots will be given to other airlines.

On Wednesday, the airline announced which airports would no longer receive daily, year-round service to and from DCA and LGA, and neither Bangor International Airport nor Portland International Jetport made the list.

In November, Collins, along with Sen. Angus King, sent a letter to the CEOs of U.S. Airways and American Airlines expressing concerns about how a reduction in service could adversely affect Maine.

“As I first explained to [American Airlines CEO Douglas Parker] when the airlines began this review, reductions in service can have a detrimental impact on small- and medium-sized airports like those in Maine, on surrounding local communities, and on consumers, by limiting options and increasing prices. I am grateful that the airline took these critically important factors into consideration when making this decision,” Collins said.

Bangor has three daily round-trip U.S. Airways flights between Bangor and DCA, but that number can dip to one or two in off seasons based on the popularity of the flights, according to Bangor International Airport Director Tony Caruso. Portland currently runs four daily round-trip flights, according to flight schedules. Neither Maine airport runs a daily nonstop US Air or American flight to LaGuardia.

“We are very excited that this decision was reached by American Airlines,” Caruso said in an email Wednesday evening. “This service has performed very well with high load factors. It serves our market very well as a destination point for both the Washington, D.C.-area and the Bangor region, as well as serving as a connection hub. We thank our congressional delegation and the Bangor City Council for their support of this important issue.”

Portland International Jetport officials did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

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