Buttigieg Cautious on More Reagan Airport Flights Amid FAA Bill Debate

During a recent House Appropriation Committee hearing, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shared his concerns about the possibility of adding more long-haul flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport. He emphasized that such additional flights could put undue pressure on the current system, and expressed his reservations about the idea. When questioned about the Biden administration's position on the matter by Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA), Buttigieg stated that they are willing to comply with whatever decision Congress makes regarding the issue.

Following the announcement of the bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the next five years, key Senate and House negotiators discussed its provisions. The bill includes a provision that grants Reagan five more slots beyond the airport’s perimeter rule. The rule currently limits the number of long-haul flights from Washington, D.C. Since both Reagan and Dulles International Airport are owned by the federal government, Congress has the authority to determine their operations.

Local congressional members have opposed the added flights, citing concerns about airport strain, traffic, noise disruption, and safety. They relied on an internal FAA memo, which indicated that additional operations would significantly increase delays and potentially compromise safety.

Buttigieg recognized the airport's busy runway and its significance in the national airspace. He emphasized that Congress plays a critical role in slot availability determination.

Several senators, including Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), have opposed the addition of more round-trip flights at Reagan. They believe that this move could jeopardize safety, lead to increased delays, and reduce regional connectivity. These senators have urged for an amendment to remove the provision from the FAA bill.

The Capital Access Alliance, which is a coalition of business groups, had originally pushed for 28 slots but has now welcomed the recently passed legislation as a victory. They have stated that the compromise is beneficial for air travelers and tackles outdated regulations that have hindered competition in the national capital region for almost 60 years.

Despite potential opposition from senators, the coalition cautiously welcomes the legislation’s inclusion in the final bill as positive progress.

Written by Staff Reports

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