Non-stop flights to DC start in May

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EGLIN AFB — Come May, travel between Okaloosa County and the nation’s capital will be a whole lot easier for hundreds of military contractors and active duty personnel.

At least one congressman also likes the idea of non-stop American Airlines flights between Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport and Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport.

“All my friends at the Atlanta airport are going to miss me,” joked U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

The first flight from Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport to Washington D.C. is scheduled to take off at 11:05 a.m. Friday, May 4, according to a news release issued Monday by the county. It will arrive at Reagan National Airport at 2:19 p.m.

An earlier flight is scheduled to depart Washington D.C. at 8:45 a.m. the same day, with arrival expected at 10:07 a.m., the release said.

The two flight schedule will run daily.

Round-trip flights of $320 are being offered for at least the first couple of weeks after the service begins, the American Airlines website shows. Airports Director Tracy Stage said flights can be booked now.

Negotiations between American and airport representatives have been going on for at least three years since County Commission Chairman Carolyn Ketchel said she has served on the governing board.

“What it means for this area is that military contractors and active duty can make it back in forth in two-and-a-half hours,” Ketchel said. “To go to the nation’s capital without making a stop is such a game changer.”

The county was fortunate to gain the daily service it did, Stage said. Several years ago, American Airlines was required to divest a number of slots to low-cost carriers at Reagan National.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We’re excited to expand our portfolio to the community.”

Monday’s announcement was made in Washington, Stage said. The airline said passengers traveling between Reagan National and Destin-Fort Walton Beach will fly on American’s newest aircraft, the 76-seat EMB-175.

American Airlines arrived in Okaloosa County in 2005 as American Eagle and US Airways began service at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport in April 2009, Stage said. US Airways and American merged in Feb 2013 to create one of the world’s largest airlines.

“We are very proud of our partnership with American Airlines,” Stage said. “This daily addition to the schedule will do well in Okaloosa County.”

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