Will this be the year San Antonio finally gets a nonstop flight to D.C.?

By: Shari Biediger

San Antonio Report, May 25, 2023

Jenn Hussey’s Washington, D.C., condo, where she often travels for a visit with her elderly parents, is only two miles from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

But Hussey’s flight path always takes her to Dulles International Airport instead, a 27-mile trip by car or train from the Virginia suburb to her condo. 

She often makes the same trip from San Antonio for her job as a methadone clinic accreditor and it’s equally inconvenient.

“Easily, it’s 45 minutes to an hour and that is like if the traffic gods have aligned,” she said. 

For years, federal law has limited how many direct flights go in and out of Reagan National, forcing inbound and outbound San Antonio travelers to choose Dulles or even Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

But, in an effort to increase the affordability and efficiency of air travel and strengthen economic growth in the region, a campaign is underway to change the rules as this fall Congress takes up the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill. 

It’s an opportunity that comes along only every five years, and though past attempts have failed, officials believe this time could be different for the San Antonio International Airport

The law limiting flights to airports within a 1,250-mile perimeter of Reagan National, which is owned by the federal government, has been in effect for decades. Houston is inside the perimeter while San Antonio is 1,600 miles from the capital. 

Through the years, a few exceptions have been made, which include Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

But other major U.S. cities like San Antonio have been shut out by what is an “antiquated rule,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for Capital Access Alliance, a nationwide coalition of groups pushing Congress to act. 

“There aren’t a lot of people who understand that the reason you don’t have a lot of long-distance flight choices out of [Reagan National] is actually a rule that was passed by Congress in the 1960s,” Walsh said. “And it was primarily implemented at the time to protect Dulles airport.”

It was a protectionist measure to drive development to the area near the airport, but that area has tripled in size in the last 20 years, he said. “It’s just a much different situation than it is today,” he said.

Walsh said the Alliance realizes that Congress likely won’t eliminate the perimeter rule altogether.

Read the full article from the San Antonio Report here.