Flat beds are coming to DCA

Delta is stepping up its game at Washington’s National Airport, bringing competition to a transcontinental route in a big way. The limited perimeter exempt slots at the US capital’s close-in airport mean that most longer routes have no competition at all. Flights to Los Angeles are an exception there, with both American Airlines (twice daily) and Alaska Airlines (once daily) offering daily service. Delta is joining that party on 24 April 2017 and it is doing so with a 757-200 featuring the Delta One premium configuration. Lie-flat seats will be flying from DCA next spring.

The new service will operate as a daytime flight eastbound, leaving Los Angeles at 8:30am and arriving at DCA just before 5pm. The westbound flight will depart DC at 5:45pm arriving in Los Angeles at 8:30pm. One could argue that being daytime service and under 6 hours in both directions the flat-bed offering is overkill. But that doesn’t mean passengers who score the more spacious seating will appreciate it less.

The new route also requires Delta to remove one of its other beyond-perimeter flights from DCA. It chose to shift one of the two daily Salt Lake City hops to Dulles to accommodate the DCA route. That’s a route Delta has a monopoly on and one on which it typically charges higher fares nonstop. DOT data suggests that Delta sees a premium of 30% or more on the SLC route compared to what Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are bringing in on the LAX tickets. So why the change? Delta clearly wants to be the leader at LAX and continues to invest in building it up as a hub. It offers onward flights to Asia and Australia (Australia is particularly well timed for the announced schedule in both directions). And maybe that is enough to justify entering the highly competitive DC-Los Angeles market.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. As someone who lives 2 mins from DCA, and whose house these west bound long haul flights fly over (thanks to Nextgen, it’s only the west coast flights…), this doesn’t make me happy. The parameter rule exists for a reason and DCA doesn’t have the capacity to handle this. The airport is a mess and way too crowded.

    Ok, rant over.

    1. The perimeter rule exists to support Dulles, same as the LGA/JFK split. DCA can handle the aircraft and the frequencies just fine. The terminals are more crowded as more airlines are bringing larger planes in but part of that is because of the slot restrictions; airlines have to use larger planes to meet passenger demand.

      I understand the NIMBY view but that doesn’t make it a good answer in the bigger picture.

    2. Seth Miller The crowding in terminals and at TSA (well, non PreCheck) at DCA is not good pax ex. Furthermore, I’ve never flown out before 10am that the line to taxi doesn’t look like LGA – always have taxiing delays. Regardless of the planes flying over my house, they have to deal with capacity (both people in the terminal and planes on the Tarmac) better. If they’re making improvements, they’re either not visible or not working.

      That being said, my west coast business trips are much happier on a DCA-SEA route! And I’ve never been to LA and for $500… Let’s go!

      1. If you’re happy to have a convenient SEA link, why rant about new flights? If you protested DCA service and only flew out of IAD, then complain away. Same goes for Next Gen – next time you’re on a flight delayed due to ATC, ask yourself if it’s worth it to have a few west coast jets fly over your house in order to get you home on time. Sorry (not sorry), but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. 🙂

    3. This is trading one existing flight for another, so it’s not changing the number of daily departures or arrivals at all. The existing SLC flight probably goes right over your house already. And, I hate to say it, virtually everyone who lives near the airport moved in long after the airport was already there. Don’t like airplane noise? Don’t live near the airport. It’s not like DCA was built after you had already bought a house.

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