In Case You Missed It: The Washington Times Editorial Board Calls For More Flights At DCA, Modernization Of Perimeter Rule

“More flights could be slotted in easily at off-peak times, alleviating the pressure on travelers and airline employees alike. That’s one fix DCA needs.” 
– The Washington Times Editorial Board

In case you missed it, the editorial board of The Washington Times published an editorial calling for additional flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The editorial board explains why the perimeter rule is no longer relevant and how more flights will create greater competition among airlines and lower ticket prices.

The editorial board reflects on the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s, which made air travel more affordable for average Americans. But rather than let the market have greater control over air travel, DCA still is bound by a 1960s era regulation that sets arbitrary limits on the number of incoming and outgoing flights. Air travel in Washington, D.C. has increased tenfold over the past 50 years, which is three times as fast as the number of new flights that have opened up.

To keep up with demand, the editorial board urges Congress to include the bipartisan Direct Capital Access (DCA) Act in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill.  

Read The Washington Times editorial HERE and below:

Expand Reagan Airport
The Washington Times
Editorial Board
June 19, 2023

…Congress and the Carter administration got it right when they followed the advice of the economist Alfred Kahn and deregulated the U.S. passenger airline industry.

What Kahn conceived made air travel much more affordable for average Americans and added trillions to the U.S. economy. His work kicked off a deregulatory boom that, off and on, has been beneficial to consumers and job creators alike.

Where things got messed up was in failing to follow through with airline deregulation by deregulating or privatizing the airports. Many of the problems, including many of the ones that make flying so unpleasant today, stem from the failure to let market forces have greater control over air travel.

There were plenty of reasons not to do this back in the 1970s. The politicians and bureaucrats liked being able to influence flight schedules and landing and takeoff times and to set the number of available slots. It gave them power, the coin of their bureaucratic realm.

The inability to add slots, especially at a place like Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, is often why airports are so crowded. Despite the construction of a new main terminal that serves most of the people using DCA — as Reagan National is also known — it’s almost impossible to add flights to keep up with increased demand.

It’s the only airport in the country where the federal government sets the number of daily incoming and outgoing flights. Except for the advantages this gives crony capitalists and the airlines that are already profitably positioned, this makes no sense.

Using their authority to make a change, Reps. Burgess Owens, Utah Republican, and Hank Johnson, Georgia Democrat, have introduced the Direct Capital Access Act. It’s a bipartisan bill that would increase the number of flights going in and out of Reagan National, which, amazingly enough, is still operating according to rules made in 1966.

The proposed addition of 20 to 25 flights in and out of DCA is expected to be and should be part of the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization. If adopted, it will produce greater competition among the carriers serving Reagan National. And that, as even the most junior economist knows, will bring down the price of tickets.

That would be a welcome change in these inflationary times. These realities of the marketplace underscore the need to expand the number of slots at DCA. Over the last 50 years, the number of people going in and out of Washington has increased tenfold. That’s about three times as fast as the number of new slots has opened up.

More people without more flights leads to bottlenecks. That’s why you’re advised to get to the airport two hours before your flight is due to leave, why there are such long lines at the security screening, and why there’s frequently no place to sit at your departure gate. And even if you get through all that, you may still miss your flight because the doors were closed and locked by flight crews under pressure before your flight was scheduled to depart.

More flights could be slotted in easily at off-peak times, alleviating the pressure on travelers and airline employees alike. That’s one fix DCA needs. Another is an end to the so-called perimeter rule that’s been in place since the Johnson administration that limits how far the planes leaving Reagan National can fly.

The prohibition of flights going farther than a 1,250-mile radius outside downtown Washington helped assuage the concerns of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, residents about jet noise and other nuisances that were common in the 1960s but are rare now.

These limits, which seem archaic today, were put in place as an incentive for people to “go all the way out” to Washington Dulles. The government wanted people to believe the convenience associated with being able to fly nonstop to faraway places would compensate for the cost and inconvenience associated with using that airport instead of DCA.

Now you can get to Dulles on the Metro. Reforms allowing more nonstop flights from DCA, which would encourage price competition between the airports, should be allowed.

There’s no longer any reason except bureaucratic inertia why a person wanting to fly direct from Washington to California to visit the Reagan Ranch or the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley shouldn’t be able to leave from Reagan National Airport.

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.