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US says seven airlines eligible to apply for new daily Washington flights

A Delta Air Lines aircraft lands at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Transportation Department said on Monday that seven major airlines are eligible to apply for five new daily roundtrip flights from Washington Reagan National airport.

On May 16, President Joe Biden signed legislation creating the new flights at the busy airport in Arlington, Virginia, outside the nation's capital. Applications must be filed by July 8 and comments on applications must be submitted by July 17.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines < DAL.N>, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Air Canada and Alaska Airlines are eligible to apply, the Transportation Department said.

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USDOT said it encouraged airlines "to provide no more than one backup service proposal in their applications," citing the law requiring the new flights to begin by mid-July.

The Washington region has three major airports, but Reagan National is the closest to the U.S. Capitol and downtown. Because of its short runways, its main runway is the busiest in the country. By passengers, Reagan is the 23rd-busiest U.S. airport.

Delta said earlier it would apply for a new flight between Seattle and Reagan and if successful would compete with Alaska Airlines which operates the two current daily flights between the airports.

Delta heavily lobbied for the change - and had pushed for adding far more daily flights - while United opposed it.

Southwest said it will apply for a new daily flight between Washington and Las Vegas, which has only one flight per day on American Airlines.

American wants to start a new daily flight between San Antonio and Washington, which would connect the seventh-largest U.S. city to the DC airport.

Alaska wants a new daily flight to Reagan from San Diego, the largest market without direct flights to the DC airport.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sonali Paul)