One Mile At a Time: DCA Perimeter Rule: Could We See Some Changes?

Written By: Ben Schlappig

One Mile At A Time, April 27, 2023

Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is the airport closest to Washington DC, and is therefore the favored airport for most politicians. The airport isn’t very large and there’s a lot of demand for it (given how lucrative government business can be for airlines), so it’s slot controlled.

The airport has what’s known as a perimeter rule, which has been around since 1966, when jets started flying to the airport. This rule generally prohibits airlines from operating routes longer than 1,250 statute miles nonstop.

However, there are a limited number of exemptions, whereby up to 40 daily flights (20 roundtrips) are allowed to destinations farther than that. Current destinations beyond the perimeter rule include Austin (AUS), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX), Portland (PDX), Salt Lake City (SLC), San Francisco (SFO), San Juan (SJU), and Seattle (SEA).

What’s the logic for the perimeter rule? Well, this was initially intended to protect Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) as the transcontinental and international gateway for the area. The concern at the time was that Dulles Airport couldn’t thrive if National Airport wasn’t limited in this way.

By the way, there’s an honorable story about late Senator John McCain related to the perimeter rule. In 1999, he led an effort to repeal the perimeter rule. He wasn’t successful, but some exemptions (including one to his home airport of Phoenix) were allowed. He reportedly refused to take the nonstop flight and rather opted to connect, so that it didn’t appear that he was just trying to repeal the rule for his own interests.

Read the full article from One Mile At A Time here.