Capital Access Alliance Releases Statement Following United-Backed Press Conference On DCA Perimeter Rule

“Their Primary Argument is Just Anti-Competition” and We’ve Seen This Before From United

Washington, D.C. – There they go again….United Airlines is keeping the fact checkers busy by continuing to parrot false and misleading claims to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and air travelers around the country regarding bipartisan efforts to modernize the outdated federal perimeter rule that artificially restricts air travel at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). 

Here’s the backstory – United Airlines has a history of putting forward false claims to prevent competition, most recently in Houston when Southwest announced it hoped to expand international service at the William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). 

United – which controlled most of the flights at Houston’s larger airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) – strongly opposed this effort and told the Houston City Council that it would have to cut flights and workers if the new flights were approved.

In the end, after the Houston City Council rejected United’s arguments, not only did United not cut service in Houston – they expanded it.

History is repeating itself today, as United Airlines is using some of the same arguments it did back then, including cuts to service.  Read more here.

As part of its lobbying campaign aimed at blocking bipartisan legislation – H.R. 3185 and S. 1933, introduced in the U.S. House and Senate respectively – that would authorize new, in- and beyond-perimeter flights at DCA, United Airlines sponsored an expensive event on Capitol Hill this morning featuring CEO Scott Kirby. At that event, Kirby repeated United’s false claims that adding more flights at DCA would somehow result in cutting existing flights, even though the legislation in Congress is purely additive and would do nothing to replace or cancel existing regional flights. Here’s what Kirby said:

  • Any flights you add means another flight has to be canceled or delays go up exponentially. It is a zero-sum game. And because it’s a zero-sum game, if you’re going to add another flight to Los Angeles, it means somewhere like Baton Rouge or Milwaukee or somewhere is going to lose a flight.”

There are a few problems with this statement – first, United Airlines does not currently operate ANY flights from DCA to Milwaukee OR Baton Rouge and the ONLY way any current flight would get canceled is if the airline that controls that flight decides to cancel it, so it’s unclear what Kirby is even talking about from his position as the CEO for United Airlines. 

Second, the REAL reason United Airlines is opposing this bipartisan bill is because once again, they are trying to block more competition and prevent air travelers from having more choices at lower prices.CAA spokesman Brian Walsh was a guest on the popular political podcast “Ruthless” this morning, and here’s what he said in response to United’s false claims:

  • The opposition to this effort is being led by United Airlines, which has 80 percent of the gates at Dulles and surprise, surprise, they don’t want more competition. And so they are fighting this very hard…but subsequently, it’s airline passengers who are paying the price with some of the highest ticket prices in the country. (57:05 mark)
  • Their primary argument is just anti– But no surprise, it doesn’t really play well on Capitol Hill or with the general public, to say ‘I don’t want more competition.’ So they’ve settled on this false narrative that it will somehow cut flights elsewhere. And I just tell people read the bill. It’s H.R. 3185. The bill is purely additive. And it says we’re going to authorize 28 more flights across all seven airlines. So that’s what’s ironic here is that United and American are opposing something that they would also benefit from, meaning they would get four new flights each under this legislation to fly wherever they want. The bill basically says each airline, seven airlines at DCA, gets four new flights. You can send it to Nashville, you could send it to Orlando, you could send it to Seattle, or Salt Lake City, so it doesn’t affect any in-perimeter current service. It’s purely additive.” (59:28 mark)

CAA launched last month which outlines the facts about modernizing the 1960s era perimeter rule and adding more flights at DCA, and released a new ad, “Real Talk.”The site and ad set the record straight on the misleading claims being put forward by “The Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports,” an organization backed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and United Airlines that aims to block consumers from stronger and more affordable access to Washington, D.C.

About CAA

CAA consists of diverse members from around the country and various industries, including transportation, general business groups, the small business sector, entrepreneurs and job creators, organizations focused on economic development, and leaders in the civic and policy communities. 

Learn more about Capital Access Alliance HERE.