In Case You Missed It: CAA Board Members Call For Modernization Of Protectionist Perimeter Rule

In case you missed it, Capital Access Alliance (CAA) board members Ryan Costello, a former U.S. Representative and member of the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation; Rolando Pablos, the 111th Texas Secretary of State and a 2023 board officer for the Texas Association of Business; and Lee Moak, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association International and a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Transportation, published an op-ed in The Hill advocating for additional flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill to increase affordability and access to the nation’s capital. 

The op-ed outlines the consequences the 1960s era perimeter rule is having on the air travel market. Specifically, the authors explain how the perimeter rule makes traveling to Washington, D.C. less accessible, more expensive, consumes additional time and is worse for the environment. The authors also draw attention to FAA data that contradicts claims that DCA is at capacity, as well as recent investments in DCA that would ease the burden of additional flights to and from the airport.

The authors note the strong bipartisan support between Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) on an agreement that would add a modest number of new flights at DCA and encourage the full Senate to support this provision when they vote on the FAA Reauthorization bill.

Read the piece HERE and below:

Drop The Protectionist Rules — Let Reagan National Airport Add More Flights
The Hill
Ryan Costello, Rolando Pablos & Lee Moak
October 17, 2023

Washington’s history and beauty draws millions of tourists and visitors year-round from all over the country. The seat of the national government, where policies that shape our country are debated, is the destination of civic pilgrimages undertaken by legions of students every year.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), just across the Potomac in neighboring Arlington, Virginia, is America’s airport. It is the gateway to this vibrant city, just a short Metro ride away from everything.

Unfortunately, it is also the only airport in the country subject to a federal perimeter rule passed by Congress in 1966. The rule permits only 20 roundtrip flights out of DCA each day by seven airlines — less than 6 percent of its daily flights — to be flown to just 10 markets beyond a 1,250-mile perimeter.

This restriction made little sense in 1966. In 2023, it makes no sense at all.

One of the more prominent issues on Capitol Hill this year has been to loosen the rule’s restrictions. All eyes have been on the Federal Aviation Administration five-year reauthorization bill, as members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have come together to add more flights to meet demand at DCA.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chair and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, are working toward an agreement that would include a modest, single-digit number of addition roundtrip flights at DCA that could be used for both within and beyond perimeter destinations. Senators should support this provision when the full Senate votes on the FAA Reauthorization bill.

The federal perimeter rule, as it currently stands, protects the interests of a single airline ahead of those of all air travelers. United Airlines controls nearly 70 percent of the gates at Dulles International Airport, which is a 40-minute drive from the District. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the one airline that directly benefits from this 1960s-era protectionism is vehemently opposed to more competition in the local air travel market. United has been at the helm of an expensive misinformation campaign, based on false and misleading claims, with the aim of maintaining the status quo.

The current perimeter rule has made air travel less accessible and affordable for millions of consumers, particularly from Western states, while failing also to meet a growing business demand for more direct access to the national capital region.

The existing perimeter rule costs passengers both time and money. Washington is the most expensive air travel market among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas. Dulles ranks as the most expensive airport in the nation for domestic travel. An average ticket to and from Dulles costs consumers nearly $500, which puts travel to our nation’s capital out of reach for far too many Americans. In addition, nearly four of every ten beyond-perimeter passengers must connect when traveling from Washington, D.C. — almost twice the rate for other top metros.

The demand for direct flights to Washington, D.C., is far outpacing supply as population and economic growth increase across the country. Ninety-five percent of beyond-perimeter markets are underserved, and business demand for direct access is on the rise, with 28 percent of Fortune 500 companies establishing headquarters outside DCA’s perimeter over the last six decades and 20 located in the Washington, D.C. region.

The perimeter rule is also negatively affecting our environment. Passengers flying out of Washington, D.C., burn 15 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the average for top metropolitan areas. The total carbon emissions are equivalent to 1.8 million kg annually, or 64 extra daily flights by 737s.

Data from the FAA also refute the claim that DCA is at capacity. There are multiple times throughout the day when DCA has the bandwidth to add more flights safely, as multiple industry professionals and aviation experts have pointed out, including former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

In addition, DCA has had several infrastructure improvements, notably a $1 billion project that opened a new 14-gate concourse and expanded security checkpoints. Next generation programs have been implemented, increasing air traffic safety at the airport. Additionally, recent federal data shows that DCA is the regional leader in on-time performance, which directly undercuts claims that DCA has some of the highest cancellation rates.

Like many things over the last 60 years, much has changed in air travel, thanks to deregulation, population growth, airline innovation, advanced aircraft technology, and rising income levels. After 60 years, the perimeter rule no longer supports the demands modern air travel.

It is time to modernize the perimeter rule and set a course toward a better future for travelers — one that protects consumers’ bottom line, strengthens economic growth, and better serves our region by delivering affordable service at DCA. 

Ryan Costello served in the U.S. House and on the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation. Lee Moak is former president of the Air Line Pilots Association International, and a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Rolando Pablos served as the 111th Texas Secretary of State and is a 2023 board officer for the Texas Association of Business. All three are board members for the Capital Access Alliance.

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.