Washington Post: New Coalition Pushes For More Long-Distance Flights At Reagan National

By: Lori Aratani

The Washington Post, April 27, 2023

A coalition of business groups on Thursday is launching a campaign to increase long-distance service at Reagan National Airport, arguing that rules limiting the number of flights and the distance they travel are outdated and are hurting consumers and the local economy.

The effort, led by the Capital Access Alliance, is the latest salvo in a long-running battle over control of National, whose unique status as one of two airports owned by the federal government — alongside Dulles International Airport — means Congress has the power to make changes to how it operates.

At issue is the perimeter rule, which limits the number of flights that travel more than 1,250 miles from National. Over the years, lawmakers have carved out exemptions to allow a small number of flights beyond the 1,250-mile limit. The Capital Access Alliance, which counts Delta Air Lines among its members, wants Congress to increase the number by as many as 25 daily round trips.

“DCA is the only airport in the country subject to a federally-imposed perimeter rule and is being underutilized as a result,” said coalition spokesman Brian Walsh. “This nearly 60-year-old regulation is making air travel longer and more expensive, while also [being] harmful to businesses and the environment.”

To bolster their case, CAA released a study by Boston Consulting Group, which estimated that expanding the number of long-distance flights at National could reduce ticket prices by an average of $60 and generate as much as $400 million in economic benefits, as well as up to $70 million in additional federal and state tax revenue for the region.

It also argues that one of the chief reasons for establishing the perimeter rule — to promote growth at Dulles — is no longer needed because Dulles has “reached a point of self-sufficiency with a solid customer base.”

CAA’s appeal is likely to garner support in Congress, particularly among lawmakers who have sought to end distance limits on flights at National. But the proposal will likely draw fierce opposition from D.C.-area lawmakers, who have long opposed changes at National and have criticized their out-of-town colleagues for meddling in National’s operations for their personal convenience.

Lawmakers have extended what began as a 650-mile limit twice over the years — first in 1981 to 1,000 miles, then in 1986 to the current 1,250 miles. Legislators also carved out exemptions that allow a small number of flights to cities including Austin, Seattle, Denver and Phoenix. Those alterations have been a sore spot for lawmakers in the Washington region who have chafed at the interference in local matters.

Read the full article from The Washington Post here.