Finding a low-fare flight from the Washington area got a lot easier this week.
With US Airways slashing its fares and Independence Air kicking off its budget service, travelers now have a wide selection of low-fare flights at all three area airports.
Arlington-based US Airways cut ticket prices yesterday by as much as 70 percent on an initial 22 routes from Washington's Reagan National and Dulles International airports. Under its "Go Fares" promotion, the airline also eliminated its Saturday-night-stay requirement.
Independence Air launched Wednesday. Independence, formerly Atlantic Coast Airlines, runs six daily flights that are expected to expand to 300 by summer's end.
Independence joins other budget carriers serving the area airports. The low-fare leader at Baltimore Washington International is Southwest Airlines, while US Airways now provides low-fare service at Reagan National and Dulles. Several low-cost carriers such as Air Tran, JetBlue and Ted also fly out of Dulles.
Some US Airways fares have fallen significantly as the carrier seeks to compete with low-cost rivals intruding on its territory. For example, the price of a last-minute US Airways ticket from Washington to Phoenix plunged to $102 from $1,212.
As part of the campaign, US Airways employees will hand out promotional fliers on Washington area streets next week.
US Airways announced similar cheap fares from Philadelphia last month to compete against Southwest Airlines, which began service there.
The new fares in Washington are part of the airline's overall restructuring plan, said B. Ben Baldanza, US Airways' senior vice president of marketing and planning.
Low-fare service in the region is likely to grow the most at Dulles in coming years because BWI already is dominated by Southwest and growth at Reagan National is controlled by the federal government, analysts said.
Airline executives said that while some regions have only two factors that support airline service -- tourism and business travel -- the Washington area has three booming areas: tourism, corporate travel and government business travel.
"Washington used to be tied to government spending," Robert L. Fornaro, Air Tran's president and chief operating officer said recently. "But the business market is broadening out into technology and defense and biotech."
Independence spokesman Rick DeLisi said, "Dulles goes from being an airport that was one of traditionally a high-fare airport to one of the lowest-fare airports in America."