February 08, 2024

Van Hollen, Cardin, Warner, Kaine Statement on the Senate Commerce Committee’s Unsafe Provision to Overburden DCA

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) and Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) released the following statement after the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted to undermine the current ‘slots and perimeter’ rules at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) as part of the Senate version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act:

“We are deeply disappointed by the Senate Commerce Committee’s move to overburden DCA. With this profoundly reckless decision, the Committee is gambling with the safety of everyone who uses this airport. As we have said countless times before, DCA’s runway is already the busiest in the country. Forcing the airport to cram additional flights in its already crowded schedule will further strain its resources at a time when air traffic controllers are overburdened and exhausted, working 10-hour days, six days a week.

“Last year, the House of Representatives wisely rejected a proposal to add new flights to DCA in its FAA reauthorization bill. As we move towards a final bill, we call upon everyone involved to reject any backroom deal-making that prioritizes particular senators’ desires for a more convenient commute over the safety of the flying public.” 

Acknowledging the physical limitations at DCA, Congress has since 1986 restricted the number of nonstop flights that can originate out of DCA to airports outside of a 1,250-mile perimeter, with Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall (BWI) planned as the growth airports for the region’s aviation needs. However, in past FAA reauthorization bills, Congress has made changes to these rules that have disrupted the balance in this three-airport system by adding additional flights from Reagan to destinations outside the 1,250-mile perimeter. These changes in flight activity have produced significant stress on DCA’s facilities – from strained roadways and limited parking availability to overburdened baggage systems – and created frustrations for travelers, businesses, and local residents. Those changes have also prevented Dulles, whose size allows for larger planes to land and take off, from realizing its full potential as the primary long-haul flight destination for the Washington metropolitan area.

In March, the Senators sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, which has responsibility for drafting legislation to reauthorize the FAA, strongly opposing any further changes at airports that serve residents of the National Capital Area. They have also penned an op-ed last June urging their colleagues to oppose changes to the current slot and perimeter rules at DCA.