Some American Airlines landing rights at Washington's Reagan Airport will go to Virgin America

WASHINGTON – Virgin America says it will grow at Reagan National Airport by gaining landing rights from American Airlines.

Virgin said Wednesday that it won the right to buy enough so-called slots for four takeoffs and landings a day at the airport across the Potomac River from downtown Washington.

That will let Virgin America expand from its one daily flight between San Francisco and Reagan, which is so busy that takeoffs and landings are limited. Virgin also flies to San Francisco and Los Angeles from nearby Dulles International Airport.

The slots that Virgin is gaining are limited to flights of up to 1,250 miles from Washington, meaning that Virgin won’t be able to use them for new nonstop flights to the West Coast unless it gets a government exemption from restrictions on Reagan flights. The airline said that it would announce plans for new flights later this month.

American agreed to sell some of its slots at Reagan and New York’s LaGuardia Airport to settle a government antitrust lawsuit that threatened to block its merger with US Airways.

Virgin and Southwest Airlines won the bidding for slots that American is shedding at LaGuardia, and Virgin joined Southwest and JetBlue Airways in gaining slots at Reagan. Spirit Airlines made an unsuccessful bid for the Reagan slots, its CEO said Wednesday.