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U.S. House of Representatives Rejects Additional Flights To Reagan National
This past Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives voted down a new provision to allow an increase in the number of flights operated into and out of the closest airport to the Nation’s Capital, Washington Reagan National Airport. The legislation would have allowed carriers to operate more routes, aimed explicitly toward Western destinations. However, the rejection of the provision seeks to have more travelers use one of the Capital’s outlying airports, Washington Dulles International Airport.
The legislation would have allowed carriers to operate 14 additional flights from the slot-controlled Reagan Airport. The move would have benefitted Delta, which has a fairly large operation out of Reagan, but a small footprint at Dulles compared to United.
Currently, routes out of Reagan are limited to 1,250 miles. There are exceptions to this requirement, such as Alaska Airlines’ route from Seattle. However, the specific slots that Delta has been lobbying for are those that extend outside of the restriction perimeter.
Compared to April 2022, Delta saw an increase in passenger demand of 17.9% this past April, higher than both American and United. This increase in passenger travel for Delta competes directly with United’s Dulles operation. Reagan National is just four miles from Downtown, while Dulles is 30 miles outside of the city center. This makes Reagan significantly more convenient to those who are downtown.
Air traffic statistics published by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority showed Reagan handling 200,000 more passengers than Dulles this past April, and almost one million more from the start of the year to that time. This reinforces the fact that Reagan is the airport of choice for D.C. locals.
While an increase in slots would benefit Delta, it would hamper United’s operation over at Dulles. The carrier worked with lawmakers to oppose the ruling, arguing that the airport wouldn’t be able to handle an increase in flights.
The additional argument to be made is that Reagan doesn’t have plans to grow additionally in the near future, as there really is not much space to work with. Dulles on the other hand, was designed with expansion in mind. Reagan has a current land area of just under 900 acres, while Dulles takes up 13,000 acres. The footprints alone at both airports foreshadow the increase in movements at Dulles in the future as the airport will be able to handle additional future traffic.
While The House did vote to reject, the bill continues on the legislative process onto the Senate and then the President, before it is fully terminated or enacted.
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