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Klobuchar, Franken back Sun Country for slot at D.C.'s Reagan National

WASHINGTON — The Department of Transportation is considering Sun Country Airlines for a rare takeoff and landing slot at Washington's Reagan National Airport, according to Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, who are backing Sun Country's bid.

Mendota Heights-based Sun Country plans to operate a flight from D.C. that would service Minneapolis by way of Lansing Michigan's Capital Region International Airport. Sun Country is competing for one of two open slots at Reagan, the most centrally-located but space-constrained of the D.C. area's three airports.

"Sun Country is uniquely qualified among the applicants for this slot, in that it is the only route that meets all five criteria that the Department of Transportation must consider under the applicable statute," the senators wrote, along with Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. "In a time of job loss and rising air fares, this application presents an opportunity to provide an economic boost to three metro areas and assist American consumers and workers simultaneously. We appreciate your careful consideration of this request."

The full letter is here.

Lansing, like many small regional airports, has seen a hemmorhaging of flights after recent fuel price hikes and airline mergers. Within the last decade, Lansing had (and lost) direct flights to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Tampa and Washington Dulles. It now only flies direct to Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago O'Hare.

"Minnesota is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, world-renowned hospitals and medical centers, and tourist destinations. Low-cost, competitive service is essential to both businesses and travelers in the state," they wrote. "This service would also increase the partnership opportunities between the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University, two of our nation’s best research universities. Finally, it would save travelers millions of dollars in lower fares, making it easier for Minnesotans to travel to our nation’s capital."

DOT officials have not given a timeline for the decision yet, but spokeswoman Caitlin Harvey told the Lansing State Journal earlier this month that the agency would "act expeditiously."

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