In Case You Missed It: Former Speaker Of Virginia State House Calls For Increase In Direct Flights To And From DCA

“Congressional approval of additional in-and-beyond perimeter flights at DCA is a commonsense approach that reflects what the market and the consumer would like to see.” – William Howell, former Virginia Speaker of the House

In case you missed it, a new op-ed in the Washington Examiner by William Howell, former delegate and speaker of the Virginia House, highlights the need for Congress to bring the perimeter rule into the modern era and expand the number of direct flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

Howell underscores the benefits of modernizing the outdated perimeter rule specifically for Virginia, as the Commonwealth relies heavily on tourism to help fuel its economy. He also points to the significant population growth in Northern Virginia, as well as the growing number of major employers that are headquartered in the region, including 20 Fortune 500 companies. Howell explains that improving affordable access will maximize air travel for residents, businesses and visitors. 

Read the entire piece in the Washington Examiner HERE and below:

Modernizing DCA’s air travel policies would bring economic benefits to D.C. region

Washington Examiner
William Howell
May 27, 2023

As the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and longtime representative of Stafford County, I have always viewed investment in the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure as critical to regional economic growth. Strong investment in infrastructure, when paired with sensible government regulation, is critical to ensuring that our economy remains strong.

A key link to global commerce is through air travel, and Virginia is fortunate to have two great airports within its boundaries: Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Unfortunately, due to outdated federal regulations, travelers who choose DCA when flying are left with limited options when it comes to direct flights, particularly to destinations further west.

The limited options are because of an antiquated regulation established by Congress in 1966 called the “Perimeter Rule,” which limits non-stop routes from DCA to 1,250 miles, or approximately the Mississippi River. While this regulation might have been well-intentioned at its inception, the Perimeter Rule has long outlived its useful purpose, and is now a barrier to continued growth and consumer choice.

It is time for Congress to update this anti-competitive rule and allow the free market to best regulate flight options from airports.

The Perimeter Rule arbitrarily limits consumer choice but serves as a competitive advantage for air carriers that operate at surrounding airports not subject to these restricted flight routes. It is an unfortunate example of some lawmakers arbitrarily tipping the scale in favor of one business enterprise over another, all at the expense of the consumer.

The limited option for consumers is also coupled with increased costs associated with travel because the region lacks true competition among carriers. Indeed, the anti-competitive nature of the Perimeter Rule has led to significantly higher ticket prices for travelers.

Washington, D.C., is the most expensive market for air travel in the United States top ten metropolitan areas. Traveling to beyond-perimeter destinations often requires passengers to make at least one connecting flight, which only results in more tedious and time-consuming travel. The current Perimeter Rule is also costing the Washington, D.C. region $290 million in lost federal and state tax revenue, and approximately 5,500 lost jobs because of less incoming traffic. 

Washington, D.C. welcomes millions of visitors each year, and Virginia relies heavily on its tourism industry to help fuel its economy. As someone who grew up in northern Virginia, I have witnessed first-hand the tremendous growth of the northern Virginia region over the past 50 years. The explosive population growth and location of major employers, including 20 Fortunate 500 companies, underscores the importance of maximizing air travel options for residents, businesses, and those visiting our region. 

Those few elected officials who have argued in favor of maintaining this antiquated regulation claim the federal government should not be involved in dictating the operations of DCA. I could not agree more with that sentiment, but the answer is not to maintain this regulation, but rather, to eliminate it and treat DCA like other airports in the United States that rely on the free market to determine flight options.

Congressional approval of additional in-and-beyond perimeter flights at DCA is a commonsense approach that reflects what the market and the consumer would like to see. Ultimately, this action will benefit travelers, further facilitate the Commonwealth’s economic growth, and ensure that DCA is treated like other airports in the United States.

As the U.S. Congress begins deliberating over the Direct Capital Access Act, I encourage members, including those in the Virginia delegation, to carefully consider the long-term benefits of modernizing this antiquated regulation. Our air travel ecosystem has evolved greatly over the past half-century and is far too advanced to be governed by a regulation that’s nearly 60 years old.

It is time to modernize travel at DCA and improve access to the region, which will better serve the Commonwealth’s residents, businesses, and visitors who travel here each year.

William Howell represented the 28th District in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1988 to 2018 and served as speaker of the state House from 2003-2018.

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.