American Airlines is taking a chance on Baton Rouge with daily D.C. flights. So far, it’s paying off

On June 1, American Airlines flight 4216 took off its first nonstop flight from Baton Rouge to Washington, D.C. Nearly all of its 76 seats were full. The people onboard were part of a historic flight: the first direct route to the nation’s capital from Louisiana’s capital in 15 years.

Jim Caldwell, the marketing and air service development manager at Baton Rouge Metro Airport (BTR), watched the whole thing. Local media turned up, the airport served breakfast, and American Airlines gave out gifts. It was a celebration fit for a flight that was a long-time in the making.

Years before, BTR’s nonstop to Washington, D.C., was through Delta. Due to the economic crisis, increasing fuel prices and reduced demand, Delta pulled their flight from the area in 2008. After years of consideration, American Airlines began to look at Baton Rouge more seriously. It’s already seemed to pay off: the less expensive prices and quicker routes have resulted in a nearly sold out summer.

The new flights from BTR to DCA are operated with Embraer 175 jets.

Airports in Washington D.C. are slot restricted, with a limited number of planes allowed to land and dock. Previously, BTR had no direct flights there, as there were no airlines willing to give one of their coveted spots to the city.

BTR’s airport representatives attended Air Service Development Conferences and pleaded BTR’s case to a list of airlines. Caldwell compares it to speed dating.

“You’re in a large conference room, and you put down a wish list of the flights you want at your airport,” he says. “Then you’re given 30 minutes to plead your case.”

American Airlines decided to work with BTR and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to establish the daily nonstop route to Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA). The airline agreed to move one of their slots to cover Louisiana’s capital. The airline has stated that flights like these are essential to “providing access to America’s global network.”


Previously, Baton Rouge travelers headed to D.C. would have to connect by a layover flight in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas or Houston. Tickets for these one-stop flights cost upwards of $607 roundtrip. The new nonstop flight costs an average of $578, with no layover. Caldwell says that 60% of travelers so far are going to D.C. from Baton Rouge and 40% from D.C. to visit Louisiana.

With high demand, only around three or four economy class scattered seats are available. Still, he says flight availability looks clear if booked three weeks in advance. The airport hopes demand remains high.

“We have to prove to American that they made the right decision choosing Baton Rouge,” Caldwell says.

Having the opportunity to visit the place that runs the country is one that Baton Rouge citizens already aren’t letting pass them by.

“While the flight numbers are subject to change, the schedule stays largely the same,” Caldwell says—and American plans to stay in Baton Rouge as long as there’s demand for the flight.