Battle Lines Drawn Over Proposal To Allow More Long-Distance Flights At Reagan National

By: Tim Roussey

WJLA ABC, May 10, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va. (7News) — A group backed by business groups and including Delta Airlines is pushing to allow more long-distance flights to Reagan National Airport, but local politicians and some community groups are opposing it.

The group pushing for the change is called Capital Access Alliance. It wants Congress to change regulations that strictly limit how many flights of more than 1250 miles can go to and from Reagan National.

Dating to 1966 when jet airplanes began operating at Reagan National, the “perimeter rule” originally limited flights to and from Reagan to 650 miles but has been modified over the years to allow 1250 miles. There are currently a total of 20 round trip flights a day that are allowed to be longer, traveling to cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle.

Some say it’s time for the rule to be changed, and a source familiar with the effort tells 7 News a bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives this week that would allow more long distance flights out of Reagan.

It’s not something that falls along party lines – politicians and business groups in places like Texas and California have expressed support for more direct flights to Reagan, while politicians in the DC area strongly oppose the idea.

“You [would be] giving consumers more choices. Not just who live within the Beltway, but people who live out West want more access to their nation’s capital,” said Brian Walsh, spokesperson for the Capital Access Alliance. “San Antonio and San Diego, for example, are the 7th and the 8th largest cities in the country right now, and there is no direct flight to and from those cities to Reagan National.”

Walsh argues that more long distance flights would increase competition and lower prices for travelers, plus generate extra economic activity by making DC more accessible for many who live far away.

But there is strong opposition from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles.

“History has shown that relaxing the perimeter and slot rules at Reagan National leads to more noise, delays, congestion and reduction of service to smaller markets,” MWAA said in a statement. “In addition, negative impacts at Dulles International have included higher costs and reduction of air service.”

Some local residents say an increase in longer flights would worsen a problem they’ve already been battling in recent years – noise.

Read the full article from WJLA ABC here.