House rejects aviation bill amendment to add flights at DCA

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is visible from the Department of Homeland Security’s St. Elizabeths Campus in Washington, Thursday, June 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The House Wednesday night voted down an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that called for adding seven daily roundtrip flights at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport, a major hub for members of Congress.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), was rejected in a 205-229 vote. The House is expected to vote on final passage of the bill — which reauthorizes the FAA for five years — on Thursday.

Owens’s amendment called for adding seven new roundtrip flights both inside and beyond the perimeter at DCA, with one for each of the major airlines that operate at the hub. The airport does not offer non-stop service outside a 1,250-mile radius — the so-called “DCA Perimeter Rule” — per a federal regulation, though there are some exceptions, including flights to and from Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Owens and a coalition of lawmakers initially sought to add 28 additional daily flights at DCA, but ultimately settled on seven as a compromise.

The amendment adding flights to and from DCA was subject to much debate among lawmakers in the lead up to Wednesday’s vote, dividing members not by political party, but rather by geographic location.

During debate on the House floor Wednesday, lawmakers who spoke in support of the measure hailed from Utah, Texas and Georgia, while opponents were based in Virginia, D.C. and Illinois.

Proponents of the amendment argued that the measure would increase convenience for travelers by providing more flight options.

“It’s about empowering American consumers by providing more options and greater convenience for people traveling to and from Washington, D.C.,” Owens said Wednesday.

Lawmakers located near the nation’s capital, however, argued that the measure would make an already congested airport more crowded.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) claimed that the amendment would “increase safety risks, delays, cancellations, diversions and noise at National Airport, all for the personal convenience of some members of Congress.”

Airlines also got involved in the discourse over adding more flights at DCA. Delta Air Lines advocated for adding flights to the D.C.-area airport, while United was opposed.

Tags additional flights Burgess Owens DCA Perimeter Rule Delta Air Lines Eleanor Holmes Norton FAA reauthorization Reagan National Airport United Air Lines

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