Jul 11, 2023 - News

High-stakes lobbying erupts ahead of vote on DCA long-haul flights

Sen Mark Warner speaks at a podium with a sign that says "Don't Gamble with DCA Slots" and "More Changes = More Delays"

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) yesterday at Reagan National Airport. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

With a potential vote in Congress this week, senators from Maryland and Virginia are attacking a plan to add more long-haul flights to Reagan National Airport.

Why it matters: Regional leaders oppose a bipartisan proposal for more nonstop flights out of DCA due to concerns over capacity and the financial future of Dulles International Airport.

What they're saying: "National just doesn't have the capacity to take on these additional flights," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said against a backdrop of summer travelers yesterday at National Airport.

  • Dulles is 14 times larger, Warner said, and that National already serves 1 million more passengers annually than Dulles.

What's happening: The Senate is currently handling a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which some senators would like to use as a vehicle for expanding National's reach.

Catch up fast: Delta, along with several business groups and lawmakers from the West, is supporting a coalition called Capital Access Alliance, which commissioned a study in April that said National's "perimeter rule" is an "antiquated" relic that drives up airfares.

  • A bill called the DCA Act would add 28 roundtrip flights outside the 1,250-mile perimeter rule. It has bipartisan support in the House and Senate. There are currently 20 roundtrip flights exempted from perimeter rule.

A recent FAA memo said that adding 25 more daily roundtrip exemptions to the limit would increase delays by nearly 33%.

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