Capital Access Alliance Statement On Thursday’s Incident At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Notes That Critics Of More DCA Flights Have Called For More Flights At Dulles Even After Similar Incident In 2018

Washington, D.C. – The Capital Access Alliance (CAA), a coalition of transportation and business leaders from Virginia and around the country seeking to make air travel to and from Washington, D.C., more accessible and affordable, released the following statement regarding efforts by some Members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation to exploit Thursday’s incident involving two aircraft at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) as part of their ongoing effort to protect one big airline’s monopolistic profits at the expense of national capital region air travelers who suffer from some of the highest ticket prices in the country. 

Virginia’s two U.S. Senators and a member of the Commonwealth’s U.S. House Delegation released press statements claiming yesterday’s incident at DCA shows why more flights cannot be added at DCA, even as Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Whitaker testified before the House earlier this year acknowledging DCA does have the capacity to add more flights at key periods each day.  Notably, none of these same members of the House and Senate appear to have issued a press release or opposed adding more flights to Dulles International Airport (IAD) when virtually the same incident occurred in September 2018. In fact, these same members of Congress have repeatedly fought for an expansion of flights at Dulles, where United Airlines controls roughly 70 percent of the gates, and the airport was recently named “the most expensive airport in the country” for domestic ticket prices.

An August 2023 report in The New York Times found that 46 close calls had occurred involving commercial airliners in the previous month. In one instance, two consecutive aircraft taking off from San Francisco International Airport nearly hit another plane, each only missing by a small margin that an internal FAA report called “skin to skin”. “It’s ironic that the same members of Congress who are seeking to exploit yesterday’s incident at DCA have stayed silent when numerous similar incidents have taken place around the country, including at Dulles in 2018 and at many other airports like San Francisco, BWI, Boston and San Diego. In fact, they’ve repeatedly called for expanding more flights at Dulles to meet growing demand,” said CAA spokesperson and Northern Virginia resident Brian Walsh. FAA data and multiple aviation experts, including the former and current FAA Administrators, have confirmed that DCA has capacity to safely add more flights. Moreover, any new flights will not be added at peak times but in the multiple time blocks each day where FAA data confirms DCA is underutilized and it is safe to do so. Supporters of increased access to DCA have never suggested that flights be added at the expense of safety. Safety is always first, including in efforts to expand access and affordability for consumers.”

“The reality is that political opposition to adding a modest number of new flights at DCA is centered on protecting one big airline at the expense of air travelers who suffer from a lack of affordability and lack of direct access to Washington D.C. That’s unfortunate, but it reinforces why the rest of the Congress needs to stand on the side of air travelers in supporting the bipartisan effort to add a small number of new flights at DCA in this year’s FAA Reauthorization bill,” Walsh concluded.

Flashback to September 2018:


  • Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation included a bipartisan provision in its markup of the FAA Reauthorization bill that would authorize five new flights at DCA. The provision represents a reasonable compromise from previous legislative proposals that would have added as many as 28 new flights at the airport. The five new flights represent a modest increase and are less than one-quarter of the initially proposed.
  • FAA data and aviation experts have confirmed that DCA has room to add more flights safely. At a recent hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker also said, “[T]here are some hours when there’s some room for new capacity” at DCA. DCA is a top-performing airport for on-time arrivals and departures, not only in the national capital region but all of North America.
  • The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and some Members of the Virginia Congressional Delegation have yet to address data showing that Washington, D.C., also has some of the highest ticket prices in the country due largely to limited competition and consumer choice. DCA is the only airport in the country still subject to a federal perimeter rule limiting the number of flights daily. 
  • As Congress works to pass the final FAA Reauthorization bill in the coming weeks, the bipartisan agreement passed in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation should be part of the final package. More flights will increase consumer competition and choice and strengthen affordable access to our nation’s capital.

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.