Record-Breaking Growth At Dulles International Airport Reinforces Need To Modernize 1960’s-Era Perimeter Rule

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Boasts Record-Breaking Figure; Calls Into Question Opposition To More Flights At DCA

Washington, D.C. – The Capital Access Alliance (CAA), a coalition of transportation and business leaders from Virginia and around the country seeking to make air travel to and from Washington, D.C., more accessible and affordable, highlighted an announcement this week from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) hosted a combined 50.6 million passengers in 2023. It’s the first time the airports have exceeded 50 million passengers, setting a new travel record for the Northern Virginia airports. 

Notably, MWAA did not address additional data which shows that Washington D.C. also has some of the highest ticket prices in the country due in large part to limited competition and consumer choice because DCA is the only airport in the country still subject to a federal perimeter rule that limits the number of flights each day. 

In the press release, MWAA attributed the new record to the “strong demand” for both airports and noted that Dulles is now “the fastest growing international gateway airport in the United States.” MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said, “Setting a new record is a remarkable accomplishment that can be credited to continuing recovery from the COVID pandemic and the hard work of our airport team and their partners.” Potter continues, “We are not slowing down as upgrades continue for our customers at Reagan National, as well as a new concourse at Dulles International.”

“It’s great news to see the continued growth and success of IAD and continued capital improvements at DCA, which are strengthening the passenger experience. It’s also another reminder that more Americans are traveling by air than ever before, and demand continues to grow each year,” said CAA Spokesperson and Northern Virginia resident Brian Walsh. “This raises the question of why an antiquated perimeter rule that was put in place back in 1966 to protect Dulles continues to prohibit greater consumer access and affordability at DCA.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation included a bipartisan provision in its markup of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that would authorize five new flights at DCA. The provision represents a reasonable compromise from previous legislative proposals that would have added as many as 28 new flights at the airport. The five new flights are a very modest increase and less than one-quarter of what was initially proposed.

FAA data and aviation experts have confirmed that DCA has room to add more flights safely. At a recent hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker also said, “[T]here are some hours when there’s some room for new capacity” at DCA. DCA is a top-performing airport for on-time arrivals and departures, not only in the national capital region but all of North America.

As Congress works to pass the final FAA Reauthorization bill in the coming weeks, the bipartisan agreement passed in the Senate Commerce Committee should be part of the final package. More flights will increase consumer competition and choice and strengthen affordable access to our nation’s capital.

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.