A push for more long-distance flights at Reagan National gets pushback from airports authority

Many people in the D.C. area prefer flying out of Reagan National Airport due to its proximity and lack of shuttles involved — but a decadeslong rule concerning long-distance flights the airport can accommodate makes options limited for travelers.

Now, a bipartisan bill proposed by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) aims to add 28 daily flights, including more long-distance flights, at Reagan National Airport.

“By limiting the number of flights in and out of National Airport, we are squeezing consumers — they are the ones paying the price,” said Johnson, a senior member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, in a statement introducing the Direct Capital Access (DCA) Act.

A federal “perimeter” rule restricting long-distance flights was established in the 1960s. With few exceptions, it caps the distance of flights in and out of Reagan National Airport at 1,250 miles.

The new bill has support from the Capital Access Alliance, a coalition that includes Delta Air Lines, which has been advocating for more direct flights at Reagan National Airport.

The current perimeter rule results in $500 million in additional ticket prices for passengers, according to the Capital Access Alliance.

However, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates Reagan National and Dulles International Airport, is opposed to the bill.

“History has shown that relaxing the perimeter and slot rules at Reagan National leads to more noise, delays, congestion and reduction of service to smaller markets,” read a MWAA statement provided to WTOP.

“Reagan National is constrained by limited land, runways and terminal capacity. The region’s sister airport, Dulles International, is growing and ready to welcome additional flights and passengers with nonstop service from across the country and around the world,” MWAA added.

MWAA also said the Silver Line Metrorail station at Dulles allows for an “affordable connection” for travel “to points around the National Capital Region.”

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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