May 1, 2024 - News

DCA would add 5 long-distance flights under contentious bill

A Delta airplane takes off from DCA with the Capitol dome in the background

Delta and other groups have pushed for more flights. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Reagan National Airport would expand with five additional roundtrip flights daily under a new congressional bill.

Why it matters: A campaign to add more flights has been simmering for over a year, but local leaders worry the plan will cause delays and risk passenger safety.

State of play: Transportation Committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — two senators from states that would gain from more long-haul D.C. flights — struck the compromise this week.

  • A coalition supporting the proposal says the "bipartisan compromise represents a win for air travelers who suffer from some of the highest domestic ticket prices in the country" because of limits on air travel.

Meanwhile, U.S. senators from Maryland and Virginia warn that National Airport is already "overburdened."

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Congress: "We would be concerned about the pressure that that could put on the system."

What they're saying: Maryland and Virginia's senators pointed out two planes nearly collided on the runway at National Airport on April 18.

  • They said the proposal's authors "have decided to ignore the flashing red warning light of the recent near collision of two aircraft at DCA and jam even more flights onto the busiest runway in America."

Zoom in: National Airport limits flights to a 1,250-mile perimeter, with 20 roundtrip flights currently exempted from the rule.

  • The proposal would add five more flights, allowing more takeoffs to the West and beyond.

Catch up fast: Last year, a campaign supported by Delta and business groups from the West sought to add 28 additional flight slots.

  • But it failed to pass overcapacity concerns and the D.C. region's worry that adding more flights to DCA would hurt the financial viability of Dulles International Airport.

What's next: The proposal is tucked into a large FAA reauthorization bill, which will need full approval before a May 10 deadline.


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