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Area Lawmakers: Don't Change Reagan Airport Rules

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Virginia and District of Columbia delegations are urging Congress not to change the rules governing Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, citing an increasing imbalance between the region's two major airports.  

Six members of Congress sent a letter to the House and Senate Transportation committees Tuesday, urging them not to alter the rules governing Reagan National in the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, arguing recent changes have led to undue congestion. “Changes in flight activity resulting from legislative loosening of the slot and perimeter rules, combined with airline mergers and commercial transactions, have led to significant congestion and stress on Reagan National’s facilities," the lawmakers wrote.  

The slot rule limits the number of landings and takeoffs at Reagan per hour, while the perimeter rule limits nonstop flights from Reagan to distances of 1,250 miles. The lawmakers noted that in the past three FAA reauthorization bills in 2000, 2003 and 2012, Congress has altered these rules, causing travel to increase at Reagan and decrease at Washington Dulles International Airport.  

"That decline in domestic traffic at Dulles International is, in part, directly attributable to changes made by Congress to the operational rules at Reagan National," the lawmakers wrote. "Any further loosening of the existing slot and perimeter rules will exacerbate the imbalance between the region’s important airport assets."  

Dulles is much larger than Reagan and opened in 1962 to relieve Reagan congestion. The slot and perimeter rules imposed more than two decades later worked to balance travel out of the two major airports.  

But as Reagan sits at a more convenient location for lawmakers looking to fly in and out of D.C., the deregulation of slot and perimeter rules in recent years has led to a shift in the balance between the airports. According to statistics from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, in 2013 more than 20 million passengers utilized Reagan, only 2 million less than Dulles, which is roughly 14 times larger than Reagan.  

"After three consecutive years of record growth, Reagan National is forecasted to overtake Dulles International in terms of passenger enplanements in 2015," the lawmakers wrote.  

They urged members of Congress not to make further changes in the rules, arguing that increasing flights outside of Reagan's perimeter "results in poor business decisions, anti-competitive behavior and unfair giveaways to one airline over another."  

"Just as you would not want out-of-state members dictating operations at your home state airports, we will strongly oppose efforts to make changes at airports that serve our communities and constituents,” wrote Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va.; Don Beyer, Jr., D-Va; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.  

In the meantime, lawmakers are working to craft an FAA reauthorization act before the current law expires at the end of 2015.  

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