Jun 1, 2023 - News

New group opposes longer flights out of Reagan National Airport

Photo: Stefani Reynolds / AFP

United Airlines and groups supporting Dulles Airport yesterday launched a campaign against allowing longer flights out of Reagan National Airport.

Why it matters: They are siding with local lawmakers who argue expanding National will hurt Dulles’ viability as the region’s long-haul airport and exacerbate airplane noise in the D.C. area.

What’s happening: The campaign comes after lobbying from Delta Airlines and several lawmakers to relax rules that limit nonstop long-distance flights.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration said in a memo this week that adding 20 more daily roundtrip exemptions to the limit would increase delays by nearly 25.9%, and adding 25 more flights would increase delays by 33.2%.

What they’re saying: “DCA is more delay prone than most other airports,” the FAA memo acquired by Punchbowl News said.

Catch up quick: National has a “perimeter rule,” which keeps most non-stop flights within 1,250 miles of the airport.

  • The flight limits were first established in 1966 to boost the viability of Dulles and reduce congestion at the much-smaller National and jet noise over dense neighborhoods.
  • The limit has been gradually relaxed, often to allow flights to Congress members’ home districts.
  • There are currently 20 roundtrip flights exempted from the distance rule — going to destinations such as L.A. and Portland.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and 13 lawmakers from Virginia and Maryland last Tuesday wrote to the House Transportation Committee to oppose relaxing the rule, noting that National’s smaller footprint meant it “was never intended to be a long-haul airport.”

The other side: The Delta-led coalition, called Capital Access Alliance, released a study in late April by the Boston Consulting Group that called the perimeter rule “antiquated."

  • The Capital Access Alliance yesterday hit back against the new campaign, saying easing limits would give “air travelers more choices at lower prices.”

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