With three airports in and around Washington, it’s always been fairly easy to get where you want to go—often without having to change planes. But it’s getting even better.
That’s partly due to the US Airways/American Airlines merger. The federal government required both airlines to give up some slots, making them available to other carriers and paving the way for new nonstops at Reagan National. The federal requirement didn’t open up slots at Dulles and BWI—where there are no caps—but both airports have their share of new nonstops as well.
“Travelers have more choices when booking out of our area airports,” says Robert Yingling, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Dulles and Reagan National. “Increasing choices to nonstop destinations is a sign the market is healthy.”
Southwest, for example, has added new nonstops in the past year to Aruba, Montego Bay, Nassau, Cancún, and Oakland, all out of BWI. Meanwhile, at Reagan National, JetBlue is now flying nonstop to Nassau plus three Florida cities—Jacksonville, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach. At Dulles, Frontier Airlines is making a push into Florida, with nonstops to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, and Tampa to go along with new nonstops to Memphis and Las Vegas.
While most of the new nonstops go to places that already had at least one other one from this area, many are new nonstops to that destination from that airport or airline. Better yet, the competition presented by these flights could mean lower fares.
We chose a half dozen of the new nonstops for their getaway appeal. Skiing in Wyoming? Beachcombing in Punta Cana? And we threw in some tips from locals.
Flying From Dulles
New nonstop on: United Airlines.
Flight time: About 4½ hours westbound, 4 hours eastbound.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $528.
Downhill devotees flock to this Wyoming winter paradise—last season, it got 500 inches of snow. There are ski trails for every skill, fine hotels and dining, and a lively après-ski scene. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has new runs, and fans of DC’s Bourbon Steak will be happy to know that owner/chef Michael Mina has opened the Handle Bar at the Jackson Hole Four Seasons. United’s new nonstop runs daily December 20 through January 3, then weekly on Saturdays through March 21.
New nonstop on: Frontier Airlines.
Flight time: About 2 hours.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $105.
This Florida town is one of the earliest Spanish settlements in the United States and a very walkable city with some good restaurants. Nearby Anastasia State Park is a 1,600-plus-acre peninsula notable for white-sand beaches, water sports, RV and tent camping, and bird-watching. St. Augustine is also home to historic Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortress in the mainland US, now managed by the National Park Service.
Flying From BWI
New nonstop on: Southwest, beginning in November.
Flight time: About 4 hours.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $424
Reality-TV stars travel to some of the world’s most beautiful spots—among them, beachy Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. In a notorious two-parter of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the Gorgas, Giudices, Manzos, and Lauritas checked into the massive Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (causing a 300-percent jump in the hotel’s web traffic). Name-calling and brawls aside, most people go to Punta Cana for winter warmth (the average temp in January and February is 82) and to relax, swim, or get out on the links—there are about a dozen well-regarded golf courses attached to resorts on the Caribbean and Atlantic sides. For the non-golfer, there’s a day trip by speedboat or catamaran to Sanoa Island, part of the National Park of the East and, according to USA Today, known for its “unspoiled hotel-free beaches lined with palms.” For history buffs, there’s the home of Ponce de León in nearby San Rafael de Yuma. Dating to the early 1500s, it was where he planned his expeditions. For thrill-seekers, there’s cave rappelling and ziplining.
New nonstop on: Alaska Airlines.
Flight time: About 5½ hours.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $344.
What started as a timber town is now one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most culturally modern cities. Sure, the rainy weather is legendary, but there’s a lot to do indoors and out. Visit the original Starbucks at the historic and vast Pike Place Market, which claims to be one of the nation’s oldest farmers markets. Go old-school and ride to the top of the Space Needle (at 605 feet, it’s taller than the Washington Monument). Get out on the water by taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island, grabbing breakfast or lunch at Streamliner, then wandering the Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre garden and arboretum with a mission to provide a “tranquil” experience. If you’re a football fan, catch a Seahawks game at the loudest stadium in the NFL, CenturyLink Field. Film buff? At your hotel, grab a copy of the “Reel Life in Seattle” brochure, which pinpoints locations used in Sleepless in Seattle and other movies. Alaska Airlines also runs a twice-daily nonstop to Seattle out of Reagan National.
From Reagan National
New nonstop on: JetBlue.
Flight time: About 2 hours.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $98.
The climate in Charleston, South Carolina, is comparable to Bermuda’s, meaning fall and winter temperatures are pleasant, sometimes warm. Just outside town there are historic plantations to visit, such as Middleton Place, which was settled in the 17th century. In town, the charming streets are lined with architectural eye candy. Though it may surprise you, Charleston also has a nightlife scene. Whitney Sudler-Smith, producer and cast member of the Charleston-shot Bravo show Southern Charm, says that the Cocktail Club is a favorite. He also recommends the Ordinary, an “oyster hall” created by James Beard Award winner Mike Lata, and the Rarebit, where some go for the classic grilled cheese sandwich, others for the Moscow Mule. Says Sudler-Smith: “The whole area of Upper King is the new nightlife district.”
New nonstop on: Southwest.
Flight time: 2½ hours.
Lowest round-trip fare we found: $288.
Though this city is famous for Mardi Gras, there’s plenty of good jazz, fine food, and interesting art to see between now and Fat Tuesday. The city’s third International Contemporary Art Biennial runs October 25 through January 25 in spaces throughout town, including the exhibit “Basquiat and the Bayou” at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The Simpsons cast member and NoLa habitué Harry Shearer recommends the galleries along the St. Claude corridor and the Arthur Roger Gallery on Julia Street. He’s also a fan of Domenica, a “brilliant” Italian restaurant at the Roosevelt Hotel. Make time to stroll the Riverwalk along the Mississippi and visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, adjacent to the French Quarter.
This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.