FACT CHECK: Contrary To Claims Otherwise, Flight Operations At DCA Significantly Lower Than Years Past

Federal Aviation Administration & Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Statistics Reveal Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Operated More Than 40,000 Fewer Flights In 2023 Compared To 2000

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, highlighted new data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) that shows Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) operates far fewer flights today than it has in years past. 

The data directly refutes claims made in recent days by Virginia’s two U.S. Senators and a coalition funded by United Airlines, that the airport is over capacity and why they are threatening to block passage of the broader FAA Reauthorization bill over just five new proposed flights at DCA.

“This new data reaffirms what we’ve known all along – that DCA is well-equipped to handle a small number of new flights,” said CAA Spokesperson and Northern Virginia resident Brian Walsh. “If flight operations at DCA are lower today than they were 20 years ago – and there was no concern about capacity then – it makes current claims that DCA is ‘bursting at the seams’ unequivocally false. Other FAA data showed DCA could have accommodated as many as 28 new flights, which makes the bipartisan, bicameral compromise to add just five new flights more than reasonable by comparison.

These flights will help boost competition and lower airfare for air travelers, but instead of supporting consumers, opponents continue to ignore hard data and facts in an effort to protect one big airline from more competition. These five new flights will give the flying public more choices at lower prices, and Congress should ensure they remain in the final FAA Reauthorization bill.”

FACT: Monthly and annual flight operations at DCA are significantly lower than in past years. According to data from the FAA and MWAA, monthly and annual flight operations at DCA are lower today than they were more than 20 years ago. DCA operated 299,702 flights in 2023 compared to 342,790 flights in 2000 – a 13 percent decrease. Another comparison of data shows that DCA operated 2,000 fewer flights in June 2023 versus June 2000. What’s more, the last time Congress debated the perimeter rule in 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) testified that DCA could accommodate an increase in slots. Capacity existed then, and capacity exists now.

  • FACT: Multiple FAA experts have confirmed that DCA has the capacity to safely add additional flights. This week, former FAA Administrator Steve Dickson became the third FAA Administrator to validate that DCA has room for new flights. In a letter to Congressional leadership, Dickson reminded lawmakers that the FAA has safely added modest capacity at DCA in the past and is prepared to do so again. Current FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker publicly acknowledged in a U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing, “[T]here are some hours where there is room for new capacity,” while former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and 30-year veteran certified FAA air traffic controller Todd Jacobson have stated there are multiple blocks of time every day where new flights can be safely added.
  • FACT: Opponents are using the safety argument as a smokescreen. They’re only concerned about protecting one airline’s government-sponsored monopoly. United Airlines controls 70 percent of the gates at Dulles International Airport (IAD). Rather than support making air travel more affordable for the millions of flyers who travel to Washington, D.C. every year, they are doing everything they can to keep their monopoly intact. As Bloomberg and the Washington Examiner reported this week, they are even working hand-in-glove with MWAA – a government entity that is supposed to be working on behalf of air travelers, not a single airline.

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.