May 4, 2023 - Business

San Antonio lawmakers push for nonstop flight to D.C.

A Southwest plane takes off with the U.S. Capitol in the background.

San Antonio area lawmakers and business leaders are pushing for a nonstop flight from San Antonio International to Reagan National Airport. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

San Antonio leaders are pushing for a nonstop flight from San Antonio International to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport just outside D.C.

What's happening: Led by Republican Rep. Chip Roy, who represents parts of San Antonio and the Hill Country, Texas officials are arguing a "perimeter rule" at Reagan National is hurting our tourism and economy. The bipartisan push includes Rep. JoaquĆ­n Castro (D-San Antonio), Axios D.C.'s Cuneyt Dil reports.

  • A new lobbying blitz by Delta and other groups aims to relax the "perimeter rule," which keeps most nonstop flights within 1,250 miles of the airport.

Why it matters: The flight limit has long led local D.C.-bound travelers to seek out farther afield Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International airports.

State of play: San Antonio and Austin-area chambers of commerce are supporting the effort, which they say is key to connecting us to the capital.

Context: The "perimeter rule" was established in 1966 to boost the viability of Dulles and reduce both congestion at the much smaller National and jet noise over dense neighborhoods. The airport is only a few miles from the White House.

Zoom in: San Antonio doesn't have any nonstop flights to Reagan. Austin has one, through Southwest Airlines.

Yes, but: The fact that San Antonians sometimes travel out of Austin-Bergstrom to access more nonstop flights has long frustrated business leaders and elected officials here.

  • That's been a driving factor in the $2.5 billion plan to remake San Antonio International and add a new terminal. Officials hope the makeover will help achieve more and better flight options and increase San Antonio's viability for businesses.

What they're saying: The San Antonio region's defense, military, veteran and cybersecurity presence has led multiple airlines to recognize demand for a nonstop flight from SAT to DCA, local lawmakers wrote to House transportation committee leaders. But they say the "perimeter rule" stands in the way.

  • "Securing a nonstop flight between DCA and SAT would promote national security and economic opportunity and make it easier for tens of thousands of veterans to be honored in our nation's capital," the lawmakers' letter reads.
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