In Case You Missed It: Texas Business Leaders’ Support For Additional Flights To & From Washington, D.C. Grows Stronger
Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce & El Paso Chamber Among A Dozen Texas-Based Organizations Pushing For More DCA Flights
In case you missed it, new reporting from the Austin Business Journal highlights the growing support for additional flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) among Texas business leaders, specifically support for additional flights via the Direct Capital Access Act (The DCA Act).
The story highlights how booming metropolitan areas, namely Austin and San Antonio fall beyond the 1,250-mile perimeter and require federal authorization to gain flights to and from DCA.
Brittney Rodriguez, chief operating officer for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber, a Capital Access Alliance (CAA) member group, called for increased access between Austin and Washington, D.C. “It’s about time. Representing the 10th-largest city in the nation, we are behind. We want to see the progress continue to allow for the economic development that we’re enjoying now in Austin. This is an auspicious moment to ensure that we’re continuing to walk the talk, so to speak.”
Rolando Pablos, Texas’ former secretary of state and CAA board member, emphasized the impact that increased access to Washington, D.C. would have on the Lone Star State. “I would hope that all the airlines just come together and help us out,” he said. “If we have direct access, not only would we be able to go to D.C. and speak our minds, we might also bring in new investment to our communities. We’ve got a huge economy building in our Austin-San Antonio corridor and we need this.”
Lastly, CAA spokesperson Brian Walsh, a spokesperson for CAA, is quoted noting, “This is a nearly 60-year-old restriction that does not fit in the air traffic ecosystem in 2023. Austin is a perfect example of that. Service is not meeting demand.” The organization’s research indicates Austin could fill 60,000 nonstop, roundtrip seats annually to Reagan.
Read the piece in the Austin Business Journal HERE and below:
Texas Business Leaders Push For More Direct Flights To D.C.’S Reagan National Airport
Austin Business Journal
July 3, 2023
Central Texas business leaders are jumping into a decades-long debate that could result in more direct flights between Austin and Washington, D.C.
In a repeat of an effort that occurs every few years, there is a new push to lift the federal government’s limit on nonstop flights in and out of Reagan National Airport, also known by its airport code “DCA.”
The so-called “perimeter rule,” in place since 1966, only allows flights to Reagan from destinations within 1,250 miles of the airport — with exemptions for 20 daily roundtrip flights outside the perimeter.
Austin, which is also known by airport code “AUS,” currently has one of those exemption flights, on Southwest Airlines.
But a lifting of the restriction would allow for more direct flights between the Texas capital and one of the nation’s most important cities: the Washington, D.C. area is the seat of U.S. government and home to 19 home offices in the Fortune 500.
About a dozen Texas-based organizations are supporting the Capital Access Alliance, which is dedicated to lifting the perimeter rule, including the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the El Paso Chamber. Sen. Ted Cruz has also been supportive of the change.
“I think it’s very simple,” said Brittney Rodriguez, chief operating officer for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber. “It’s about time. Representing the 10th-largest city in the nation, we are behind. We want to see the progress to continue to allow for the economic development that we’re enjoying now in Austin. This is an auspicious moment to ensure that we’re continuing to walk the talk, so to speak.”
Even if wholesale change doesn’t happen, more limited changes to the perimeter rule are being mulled at the Capitol. House Resolution 3185 and Senate Bill 1933, also referred to as the DCA Act, would add 28 nonstop flights to the airport beyond the existing perimeter. The act is co-sponsored by members of the Texas congressional delegation include Reps. Tony Gonzales, Veronica Escobar, Troy Nehls and Lance Gooden. It has also recently gained the support of Rep. Henry Cuellar.
The proposed legislation remains under consideration by the Senate Committee on Commerce while the House version is currently tabled, awaiting reconsideration and potential amendments.
Rolando Pablos, Texas’ former secretary of state, has emerged as a key supporter of lifting the perimeter rule. Pablos, who is on the boards of the Texas Association of Business and CAA, said the push is about fairness in access to the nation’s capital and laying the groundwork for further economic development across the state.
“I would hope that all the airlines just come together and help us out,” he said. “If we have direct access, not only would be able to go to D.C. and speak our minds, we might also bring in new investment to our communities. We’ve got a huge economy building in our Austin-San Antonio corridor and we need this.”
From Austin, three airlines fly nonstop to Dulles, which is located in D.C.’s western suburbs, about 30 miles away from centrally located Reagan. And Austin also has direct flights to Baltimore.
There’s no guarantee that, even if the perimeter rule is lifted, Austin would get additional flights to Reagan. But economic development insiders say there is a lot of demand.
“We know that the Austin market, in particular, has been of a great deal of interest of late,” Rodriguez said. “I think we certainly are a very strong contender for this opportunity at greater access that would provide a great deal of opportunity for economic development statewide.”
Brian Walsh, a spokesperson for CAA, said Austin would likely be one of the airports to see new flights to Reagan, if changes end up being made.
“This is a nearly 60-year-old restriction that does not fit in the air traffic ecosystem in 2023,” Walsh said. “Austin is a perfect example of that. Service is not meeting demand.”
The organization’s research indicates Austin could fill 60,000 nonstop, roundtrip seats annually to Reagan.
The CAA is backed by Delta Air Lines, according to Airlinewatch.
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce is not participating in the push but generally supports the growth of air travel in the region.
“We currently have service to Reagan National, and more frequent options would benefit residents and businesses,” said Bryce Bencivengo, director of public relations for the chamber. “We continue to work with AUS, airlines, businesses, and local stakeholders to identify new air service opportunities that would further strengthen our regional economy.”
New connections to D.C. could provide some of the additional flights expected at the Austin airport as it undergoes significant expansion. A multibillion-dollar effort is underway to add gates and, eventually, a second concourse.
“If the perimeter rule does open up, we would be hopeful that there would be enough opportunities available for our airline partners to add more service from AUS to DCA,” Elizabeth Ferrer, a senior public relations officer at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said in an email.
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.