Seven local Washington Area Senators and Representatives have written to the Senate and House Aviation Committees urging that the 2015 FAA Reauthorization Bill, currently being drafted, not include expanding the points which may be served to/from Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA). Their legislative guru has a statue at the entrance of the airport.
The authors include 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. Their primary argument is that the incremental legislative additions to the High Density Rule have harmed the traffic intended for Washington Dulles International (IAD). The problem is well described in an article which appeared in the Washington Post; essentially the added flights allowed at DCA are moving passengers who are supposed to use IAD for long distance operations.
In 1984 Congress wisely created the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and leased to this multi-state body these two facilities. The purpose of this transfer was to give the local communities greater control over this aviation infrastructure. Congress endowed MWAA with the powers to “operate, maintain, protect, promote, and develop the Metropolitan Washington Airports as a unit and as primary airports serving the Metropolitan Washington area.” Those are essentially the rights held by an airport proprietary. The authority should be able to manage IAD and DCA like other multi-airport owners.
Dulles was opened in 1962 with the express purpose of being the primary airport for long distance and international flights. Not until the 1980s did IAD become a growing site for the two targeted destination categories.
Under the precepts of the 1978 Deregulation Act, an airport may not regulate the airlines’ routes. However, it is commonly accepted that MWAA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have broader discretion for their access plans allow flights to their metropolitan areas, but funnel certain lengths of flights to airports which are best suited for the location of JFK, EWR & LGA; DCA & IAD. The legal basis for this multi-airport proprietor right is that the Authorities are not denying access to the markets; long and short flights have access to the two regions through one of their controlled airports. There are rational reasons for the allocation of flights to the proper facilities.
The political basis for such permission finds its roots in the principles of President Reagan—less federal intervention into local affairs and greater reliance on the judgments of those closest to the communities. Oddly many of the cities added to the DCA schedule board were introduced by Members from the Western States from which this conservative doctrine was born.
President Reagan’s statue stands in front of DCA and his views stand in opposition of further Congressional impositions on his airport.