In Case You Missed It: Former Virginia Governor Calls For Increased Competition at DCA, Encourages Support of Virginia Delegation

“My administration worked every single day to put Virginians first. Now, I am asking Congress to put travelers first.”
– Former Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore III

In case you missed it, former Governor of Virginia James Gilmore published an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for additional flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which would increase competition and lower the cost of air travel for consumers.

Former Governor Gilmore corrects false narratives from opponents and reminds readers that free market and pro-business principles have made Virginia a beacon for sustained economic growth. The 1960s era perimeter rule directly violates these principles, serving to protect a single airline while artificially limiting the number of flights. Consumers are paying the price, as the national capital region has the most expensive airfare of the country’s top metropolitan areas, and Dulles International Airport (IAD) was just named the most expensive airport in the U.S. for domestic travel.

Former Governor Gilmore urges Congress to include the bipartisan Direct Capital Access Act in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill, which will put travelers first and deliver significant economic benefits for The Commonwealth.

Read the full op-ed HERE and below:

It’s Past Time To Allow More And Longer Flights At Reagan National
The Washington Post (Op-ed)
By James S. Gilmore III
June 29, 2023

As Congress works through its must-dos before the August recess, one headline-generating topic I hope they’ll deal with is an obscure federal regulation that has governed flights in and out of Reagan National Airport (DCA) for nearly 60 years. The “perimeter rule,” as it’s known, has stymied the airport’s growth and had a negative impact on travelers to and from our nation’s capital. It’s time to dispense with it.

Since 1966, this congressionally mandated rule has limited the number of flights allowed to land at or take off from DCA each day and restricted the distance most of them may fly to an arbitrary 1,250-mile radius. Reagan National is the only airport in the country constrained by such a federal statute, yet there is a clear need to offer more nonstop flights to the western part of our country from Washington, D.C.

Since Congress imposed these limits, it will take an act of Congress to change them. Encouragingly, Congress has before it two bipartisan bills to modernize the perimeter rule by authorizing 28 additional daily flights — including longer nonstop flights — to DCA: the Direct Capital Access Act, introduced by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Burgess Owens (R-Utah), and a similar bill introduced by Sens. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.). There is growing momentum to include these bills, or something similar, as an amendment to this year’s Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation. Congress should get this done.

As governor of Virginia from 1998 to 2002, I recognized Reagan National’s tremendous importance to the economic strength of Northern Virginia. I visited a shuttered DCA shortly after the 9/11 attacks and worked diligently with President George W. Bush to get the airport reopened. The detrimental impact its closure was having on the businesses that served it and the surrounding community was clear.

Since the inception of the perimeter rule, federal, state and local authorities have invested billions in DCA. Yet the antiquated, mid-century regulation continues to hamper the airport. Travelers from the Western United States to the D.C. area are forced into connecting flights instead of being able to fly direct.

This protectionist measure — originally intended to help the newer Dulles International Airport succeed and grow — has long outlived that purpose. Six decades later, Dulles is thriving. According to the U.S. Transportation Department, it is home to the most expensive flights in the country. Modernizing the perimeter rule by allowing longer distance flights and an increased number of slots — i.e., daily flights — into and out of DCA would lower airline ticket prices for those who live in the D.C. area and visitors to our region by increasing competition and giving travelers more choice among direct flights.

Taxpayers funding government travel from Washington to other parts of the country pay the higher ticket prices caused by the lack of competition Major businesses headquartered in Northern Virginia also pay stepped-up ticket prices for their employees’ travel. But individual travelers pay those same higher fares, with no government or business to cover the cost. That’s why a majority of Virginians support modernizing the perimeter rule.

Virginia leaders should remember that following free market and pro-business principles over the past two decades has transformed Northern Virginia into not only an economic engine for the commonwealth but also a beacon for others when it comes to innovation, creation of high-paying jobs and sustained economic growth. Opposing the modernization of an outdated statute that’s been around since before the microwave is opposing the values that made Northern Virginia and the entire commonwealth models of opportunity.

Opponents of modification keep trotting out the same old talking points to make their case, but the facts don’t back up their rhetoric. Noise levels would increase, they say. But modern aircraft are far less noisy than they were even a few years ago. The intent of the regulation has been achieved. Now is the time to think about air travel for the next generation.

I fully agree that Congress should not involve itself in airport operations. Indeed, it appears to have done so only at DCA. Now, despite the voices seeking to maintain the perimeter rule, I urge Congress to find ways to modernize it to give consumers in the D.C. area more choices.

In my time as governor, my administration worked every single day to put Virginians first. Now, I am asking Congress to put travelers first. Six decades of playing favorites with airports and airlines is more than long enough.

James S. Gilmore III is the former governor of Virginia and former CEO of the American Opportunity Foundation, which studies economic and foreign policy issues.

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.