Lawmakers Seek More Long-Distance Flights From Reagan National Airport

Utah Republican Rep. Blake D. Moore is pushing for changes to federal law that would allow more direct flights between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Salt Lake City. He said those flights will increase tourism between Utah and the capital.

It would also provide Moore with a more efficient way to commute.

On his way home from the Capitol, Moore flew from any of three Washington-area airports on Delta Air Lines, the only non-stop flight in the afternoon or evening that could get him back to Salt Lake City in time to drop the kids off. often wait for The airline leaves Reagan National (also known as DCA) airport just after 5pm and arrives around 8pm. Moore said that leaving early would allow him to fulfill his duties not only as an MP but also as a father and help his wife with her work. He can have dinner and attend Little League practice.

“We need more direct flights from DCA,” he says.

In recent weeks, dozens of lawmakers have joined forces to add 28 daily round-trip flights to Reagan National Airport. pushing their claims, opinion essay, Tweet and proposed billthey said, these additional routes (requiring an adjustment to decades-old laws prohibiting most flights from traveling more than 1,250 miles to or from Reagan National) would meet pent-up demand, It claims it will cut airfares and create new jobs.

Their push, backed by a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign sponsored by Delta Air Lines, aims to enact the change as part of legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years.

Efforts to loosen the so-called perimeter rule have been embroiled in friction over competing market share among airlines, local politics in the Washington area and the FAA’s chronic and worsening problems in air traffic and safety management.

But unlike many vested interests in Washington, this one is a weekly shuttle for lawmakers, or at least to points west of Reagan National Park, just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington. It has a personal impact on legislators returning home in Capitol Hill is also a short drive away. (Another Washington-area airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, is about 40 miles to the west.)

Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester said he was “absolutely in favor” of adding non-stop flights from Reagan National Airport outside the current 1,250-mile boundary, and detailed before endorsing a specific bill. added that it is necessary to check

Tester said the 90-minute drive from his farm near Big Sandy, Montana, to Great Falls International Airport before dawn, and a “painful” commute with connections in Minneapolis, Salt Lake City or Denver. “

Rep. Burgess Owens, a Utah Republican and one of the lawmakers seeking permission to allow additional long-haul flights from Reagan National Airport, recently missed a flight from Salt Lake City to Washington and was a day away from the next flight. He said he had to wait half an hour.

Ultimately, he had to fly to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, about 40 miles northeast of the Capitol, and take an Uber hour to the office. “Unfortunately, many Utahans and Americans in the West do not have access to our national representatives, our historic sites, or our federal agencies,” he said at an event outside the Capitol promoting a bill to allow additional flights. said in

In this case, it is unclear whether public policy will be guided by the question of whether lawmakers should avoid inconvenient connecting flights or have more options at nearby airports. And there are other issues involved.

Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia, the states that would be most affected by the increase in flights to and from Reagan National Airport, said Arlington, Virginia’s airport was within walking distance of the Lincoln Memorial for energetic travelers. claims to be. Already overwhelmed by traffic jams, limited parking and a stressed baggage system.

“At the moment, the DCA already has the busiest runway in the country,” said Virginia Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who opposes the proposed boundary exception, in a statement. “I am also concerned following recent FAA analysis that found that an increase in long haul flights at DCA would unbalance airport operational performance.”

Delta’s biggest competitors, United Airlines and American Airlines, also oppose loosening border rules. The airlines argue that adding long-haul flights at Reagan National will cause passenger delays and could even prevent FAA reauthorization. And if the border change is passed, yet another industry battle could ensue over whether it can finally offer the new route.

In an internal memo in May, the FAA wrote that adding long-haul flights to the Reagan National Airlines schedule without removing existing flights would strain the system. Reagan National already ranks 10th among U.S. airports for delays, according to the memo.

Proponents of the transition, however, see their commuting difficulties as evidence of a system in need of improvement.

In April, Delta formed a nonprofit called the Capital Access Alliance to advocate adding new exceptions to the boundary rules. This rule dates back to 1966 and has been updated from time to time over the years.

SMEs also participate. West Coast companies like Columbia Sportswear and Adidas. The alliance has told industry groups in states such as Utah, Texas and Washington that the boundary rules serve as a bulwark against congestion and competition at airports that may have hit Dulles Airport in its early days when it opened in 1962. It claims to have survived beyond its usefulness.

The group also said the congestion problems the FAA has warned about won’t affect certain times of the day, creating the potential for new flights.

Delta also expects to operate new long-haul flights to and from Reagan National Airport, where it currently has a 14% market share, according to one source. Boston Consulting Group Analysis commissioned by an airline. Delta officials say they want to establish or expand service to cities including Austin, Texas. Salt Lake City; and Seattle.

Delta Air Lines has hired influential lobbyist Jeff Miller, known for listening to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as an ally in the case.

Jamie Baker, an aviation analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said it’s too early to predict the financial impact of an exception to the boundary rule for a major airline like Delta Air Lines, but the change could help Reagan・National Airlines said service to small and medium-sized cities may decrease.

Advocates of the Boundary Rule emphasize that possibility.

“Cities and states that rely on convenient and on-time access to Washington as a destination or transit are at risk of losing access,” said the nonprofit Association for Protecting America’s Local Airports. says on the website. The group is backed by United Airlines and dozens of smaller airports and industry groups, many within 1,250 miles of its current circumference.

But some appear to be pushing for new exceptions to existing restrictions, as lawmakers could face lengthy travels before heading to Washington.

In May, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, home of Delta Air Lines, and Republican Owens of Utah introduced a bill that would allow 28 new daily flights to and from Reagan National Airport. Senators Rafael Warnock, also a Democrat from Georgia, and Cynthia Lumis, a Republican from Wyoming, introduced similar bills to the Senate in June.

“DCA operations remain as they were built in the 1960s to protect the growth potential of Dulles International Airport,” Johnson said. “Those ideals are beyond their usefulness at this point.”

Among those calling for the relaxation of boundary rules is Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who wants direct flights between Reagan National and San Antonio, partly due to his Located in the congressional district.

He said Roy could take a direct flight from Austin to Reagan National, but that flight may not arrive early enough to attend a meeting of the House Rules Committee, and instead fly to Dulles Airport or Baltimore/ They will have to use the Washington airport.

“It’s kind of awkward,” said Mr. Roy.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain tried to loosen border restrictions for the Reagan National Party in the late 1990s. completely remove the rule Late 2000s. McCain wasn’t able to repeal the rule, but in the process he managed to get a new exception to open flights to Phoenix from Reagan National Airport. He took a connecting flight and continued to return home.However, to avoid accusations of self-dealing.

Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Phoenix-area Republican, has refused to endorse efforts by some lawmakers to ease border restrictions because of the impact of McCain’s push, who died in 2018. . It could backfire in Arizona.

“We already have a few direct flights to Phoenix,” said Lesko, who has a direct flight to Reagan National Park, with a laugh. to Phoenix. So for my voters, I don’t think I’m going to sign that bill. “

Kitty Bennett Contributed to research.

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