Lawmakers want more long-haul flights out of Reagan National Airport

Lawmakers want more long-haul flights out of Reagan National Airport

Republican Representative Blake D. Moore of Utah is pushing a change in federal law that would allow more nonstop flights between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Salt Lake City. Those flights, he said, would increase tourism between Utah and the nation’s capital.

They will also offer Mr Moore more efficient commuting.

When he drives home from Capitol Hill, Moore often spends the afternoon or evening waiting for the only direct flight from one of three Washington-area airports that can get him back to Salt Lake City in time to be with his children: one Airlines departure from Delta Reagan National, also known as DCA, are after 5 PM landing around 8 PM. The first departure will allow him to fulfill his duties as a legislator but also as a father, Mr. Moore said, giving him a chance to help his wife. Attend dinner or Little League practice.

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

In recent weeks, dozens of lawmakers have joined in pressing for 28 new round-trip flights per day at Reagan National. pressing their case opinion essay, tweets And proposed legislationThey argue that these additional routes – which would require a change to a decades-old law that prevents most flights from traveling more than 1,250 miles from Reagan National – would satisfy pent-up demand, reduce airfares and Will create new jobs.

His effort, spurred by a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign sponsored by Delta, aims to enact the changes as part of legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years.

Efforts to relax the so-called perimeter rule have been mired in market share battles among airlines, local politics in the Washington area and friction over the FAA’s chronic and worsening problems with managing air traffic and safety.

But unlike many special-interest battles in Washington, this one has personal implications for lawmakers – or at least for those who travel home each week to the West, where Reagan is not easily accessible from the National, Which is located across the Potomac River right in front of the city of Washington. And a quick ride from Capitol Hill. (Another Washington-area airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, is about 25 miles to the west.)

Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, said that “I would be absolutely in favor” of additional direct flights to points outside the current 1,250-mile radius from Reagan National, adding that he would like to see more details before supporting any specific bill. May need it.

Mr Tester described his commute – which includes a 90-minute drive from his farm near Big Sandy, Mont., to Great Falls International Airport and a stop in Minneapolis, Salt Lake City or Denver – as “a pain” . ,

Representative Burgess Owens, a Republican from Utah and one of the lawmakers seeking to allow more long-haul flights from Reagan National, said he recently missed a flight from Salt Lake City to Washington and another to Had to wait for a day and a half.

Ultimately, he had to fly into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, about 25 miles northeast of Capitol Hill, and take an hour-long Uber ride to his office. “Unfortunately, many Utahns and Americans in the West do not have access to their representatives, our nation’s historic sites and federal agencies,” he said at an event outside the Capitol promoting legislation to authorize the additional flights.

It’s unclear how public policy in this matter will be influenced by the question of whether members of Congress should be able to avoid inconvenient connecting flights or have more options at a nearby airport. And there are other issues going on.

Lawmakers from Maryland and Virginia, the states that would be most affected by increased flights in and out of Reagan National, have argued that the airport in Arlington, Virginia – a place where an energetic traveler can reach on foot from the Lincoln Memorial – could drive traffic. , already stressed due to limited parking and a strained baggage system.

“Right now, DCA already has the busiest runway in the country,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who opposes the proposed perimeter exceptions, said in a statement. “I am also concerned in light of the recent FAA analysis which found that more long-haul flights at DCA will throw the airport’s operational performance out of balance.”

United Airlines and American Airlines, Delta’s biggest competitors, are also opposed to relaxing the perimeter rule. Those carriers argue that additional long-haul flights at Reagan National would delay passengers and could even hinder the FAA’s reauthorization. And if the perimeter changes pass, yet another tussle is likely in the industry over what new routes could eventually be introduced.

In an internal memo in May, the FAA wrote that adding long-haul flights without removing existing flights to Reagan National’s schedule would strain the system. The memo said Reagan National already ranks 10th among US airports in terms of delays.

But advocates for change see their own burgeoning commutes as evidence of a system that needs reform.

In April, Delta founded a nonprofit called the Capital Access Alliance to make the case for adding new exceptions to the perimeter rule, which dates back to 1966 and has been updated occasionally over the years.

Small businesses got involved; West Coast companies such as Columbia Sportswear and Adidas; And trade associations in states such as Utah, Texas and Washington, the coalition says the perimeter rule has outlived its usefulness as a safeguard against airport congestion and competition, which could hurt Dulles. which opened in 1962 – in its early years.

The group also says that the congestion issue the FAA has flagged is not a factor during certain times of the day, thereby opening the way for new flights.

Delta is also hoping to operate lucrative new long-haul flights to and from Reagan National, where it currently has a market share of 14 percent, according to a Boston Consulting Group Analysis Commissioned by the airline. Delta officials say they hope to establish or increase service to cities including Austin, Texas; salt Lake City; and Seattle.

To help with its case, Delta hired influential lobbyist Jeff Miller, who is known to listen to Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Jamie Baker, an airline analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said that although it is too early to predict the financial effects of exceptions to the perimeter rule for major airlines like Delta, the changes could result in reduced service to cities smaller than Reagan National. .

Defenders of the perimeter rule have stressed that possibility.

“Cities and states that rely on convenient, timely access to Washington as a destination or connection are at risk of losing access,” said a nonprofit called the Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports. stated on its website, The group is supported by United and dozens of smaller airports and business groups, many of which are within the current 1,250-mile radius.

But it appears the long journey lawmakers could face on their way to Washington has prompted some to push for new exceptions to existing limits.

In May, Representative Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Delta’s home state of Georgia, and Owens, a Utah Republican, introduced legislation that would allow 28 new daily round-trip flights at Reagan National. Senators Raphael Warnock, also a Georgia Democrat, and Republican Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming introduced a similar bill in the Senate in June.

Mr. Johnson said, “DCA’s operation remains as it was built in the 1960s to increase the capacity of Dulles International Airport.” “At this point those ideals have outlived their usefulness.”

Among those seeking to relax the perimeter rule is Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas, who wants to see a direct flight between Reagan National and San Antonio, parts of which are in his congressional district.

Mr. Roy can take a direct flight from Austin to Reagan National, he said, but sometimes that flight doesn’t arrive early enough for him to attend House Rules Committee meetings, forcing him to use Dulles or Baltimore/Washington. have to be forced.

“It’s a little awkward,” Mr. Roy said.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona tried to relax the perimeter restrictions of the Reagan National in the late 1990s and to get rid of the rule altogether In the late 2000s. While Mr. McCain was not able to overturn the rule, he managed to win new exceptions in the process to create flights from Reagan National to Phoenix. He continued on flights home with connectionsHowever, to avoid accusations of self-dealing.

Such was the effect of the pressure from Mr. McCain, who died in 2018, that Representative Debbie Lesko, a Republican from the Phoenix area, is refusing to support an effort by some of her House colleagues to loosen the perimeter rule, fearing than that it could backfire on Arizona.

“We already have several direct flights to Phoenix,” Ms. Lesko, who also flies direct to Reagan National, laughed, “and so opening it up to, say, Utah or other things, That could reduce the number of direct flights to Phoenix. So for my constituents, I don’t think I’ll be signing that bill.

kitty bennett Contributed to research.

Do you work in aviation? The Times wants to hear your story. Please share your experiences with us below, and you can learn more about our reporting is here, We especially want to hear from people who work (or used to work) for airports or airlines, or who are part of government agencies that help keep the aviation sector running. We will not publish any part of your Submission without your permission.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

48 + = 54