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Bipartisan bill would allow more, longer flights from DCA | VERIFY

Members of Congress from each party filed the bill to add more long-distance flights to and from Reagan National Airport, though many details are up in the air.

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have a new “fight plan” about the future of Reagan National Airport.

A newly filed bill would add dozens more flights a day and is the latest attempt to increase the flight traffic at the airport closest to Washington D.C.


Would a new bill allow more long-distance flights in and out of Reagan National Airport?


H.R. 3185 

Code of Federal Regulations 

News release from Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Burgess Owens

Rep. Don Beyer



This is true.

Yes, a recently filed bill would allow airlines to operate more flights beyond Reagan National Airport's federally mandated boundary.


A bill filed by a pair of U.S. Representatives this week is the latest piece of a long-running debate about Reagan National Airport (DCA).

DCA has operated under federal restrictions for more than 50 years, which limit both the number of flights per day and how far they can fly. 

H.R. 3185, filed Wednesday by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) would allow 28 more planes to take off and depart each day. The additional slots (takeoffs and landings) would be distributed among regional and national airlines, and the bill dictates that no more than eight of the additional slots be within a given hour.

The bill does not specify that the new flights would go to or from DCA but leaves it to the airlines to decide if connect to cities inside or outside the federal 1,250-mile boundary.

In a news release announcing the filing of the bill, Rep. Owens said the bill would benefit travelers and the capital area's economy. 

“DCA is the only airport in the country stuck with a 60-year-old federal law that restricts the number of nonstop flights beyond a 1,250-mile perimeter," he said, "making our nation’s capital one of the most expensive destinations for travelers. Modernizing the perimeter rule will improve access to Washington, D.C., reduce airline ticket prices, and increase tax revenue for the area."

H.R. 3185 was introduced on the House floor and has been assigned to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but it has not yet been placed on the calendar.

Most of the local members of Congress have opposed past efforts to add more, longer flights to DCA. In a statement on his website posted two weeks before H.R. 3185 was introduced, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia) cited an increase in noise and congestion as two of his main reasons for maintaining the airport's current restrictions.

“National Airport was never intended to be a long-haul airport," he said, "which is why Dulles Airport occupies 11,830 acres while National is just 860 acres. The dual airport system was designed with this is mind to accommodate limited land and runways at National. Our priority should be the safety and efficiency of flights, not the personal convenience of a comparatively small number of powerful and well-connected individuals.”

A group of 15 lawmakers representing Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland signed a letter in 2017 to urge no changes to the long-standing restrictions.

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