Capital Region Airport Authority, Sun Country Airlines Win Federal Approval to Continue Lansing-Washington, D.C., Flights

Decision Will Spur Region’s Economy and Support Business Development

The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved an appeal by the Capital Region Airport Authority for new runway slots that will allow Sun Country Airlines to continue nonstop daily flight service year-round from Lansing to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Capital Region Airport Authority Board Chair Chris Holman and Sun Country Airlines President and CEO Stan Gadek hailed the Transportation Department’s approval as vital to maintaining low fares and convenient schedules for passengers.

“We are delighted we will be able to continue providing excellent air service for the Greater Lansing region,” Gadek said. “We are going to keep working with Capital Airport to ensure Greater Lansing remains one of the strongest regional air service markets in the country for business and leisure travelers.”

The April 1, 2011 introduction of Sun Country’s Lansing-Reagan National Airport route has produced 67 percent passenger occupancies and generated airfare savings on other carriers for consumers. The route’s average fare has decreased 26 percent and the number of daily passengers has risen 156 percent, according to federal aviation data for the third quarter of 2011. More than 48,000 passengers have used the service since last April.

“The ruling is great news for Capital Region International Airport’s ‘Fly Lansing’ supporters,” Holman said. “By making our collective voices heard, we have saved an important cog that helps promote Greater Lansing as a hub for business and economic activity. Capital Airport is an invaluable asset that attracts employers to our region.”

The airport and Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines appealed to the Transportation Department to create a new pair of landing and takeoff slots at Washington Reagan National Airport after a court ruled the department erred in awarding the runways to Sun Country instead of another merged airline.

The successful advocacy efforts will help spur the region’s economic resurgence, said Capital Region Airport Authority Executive Director Robert Selig. A 2004 economic impact study found that the airport contributed nearly 7,400 jobs, directly and indirectly, and almost $240 million in wage income to the tri-county region.

“Sun Country Airlines’ service provides a major economic boost to mid-Michigan and helps create jobs,” said Selig. “This route is a real benefit to Michigan State University, numerous state associations and businesses in order for them to have better direct access from our state capital to our nation’s capital.”

The Mid-Michigan Business Travel Coalition was instrumental in leading a community campaign in support of the appeal by Capital Region International Airport and Sun Country.

The Travel Coalition, which consists of 200 business, educational and government organizations, spearheaded a rapid response plan after the court ruling in which regional organizations and local residents sent letters last month urging federal authorities to reconsider, said Mid-Michigan Business Travel Coalition Board Chair Jim Robinson.

“The business community really stepped forward and made a big difference in rallying together to let Transportation officials know this region needs and will support the Washington, D.C., service,” said Robinson, who also is executive vice president of Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan.

“This decision sends a message that Capital Region International Airport is strong, robust and a cornerstone of our region’s business development strategies,” Robinson said.

Holman and Selig both praised the leadership of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton), Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), state Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing) and state Rep. Paul Opsommer (R-Dewitt) and other elected officials across the region for their support during the appeal.

“Sen. Stabenow, Sen. Levin, Congressman Rogers, our Greater Lansing civic leaders, the Business Travel Coalition and the entire Capital Region International Airport team deserve credit for working hard to help Lansing's airport retain the flights our regional community requires to keep our economy moving forward," Holman said.