A national coalition of airports, businesses and chambers of commerce in the US has come together to oppose legislation that could change the way airports operate in Washington DC. 

The group of regional airports has come together to oppose possible changes to the slot and perimeter rules in place for Reagan National Airport (DCA) in the nation’s capital, which they say could overburden the airport and undermine access for other regional airports. 

DCA currently operates with a limited number of flight slots and a 1,250 perimeter limit that has been overseen by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which also oversees the other DC airport Dulles International Airport (IAD), since 1986

This setup was brought in for a number of reasons including: to ensure that the small airport can handle its workload, to protect customer numbers at the further away IAD and to limit noise for the surrounding residential areas. 

However, recent legislation in the US Congress has proposed changes to expand the number of slots available for flights to go beyond the perimeter limit from 40 a day to 96 a day. 

According to the Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports (CPARA), this could lead airlines to cut out connecting flights to smaller regional airports in favour of longer-haul direct flights to cities further away from DC. 

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Scott K. York, a coalition director and executive director of the committee for Dulles, said: “These lost connections will have a significant impact on the local communities that rely on regional airports for economic development as well as safe and convenient travel. 

“However, not only will this have a negative impact on regional airports but these proposed changes will have a profound negative effect on both Reagan National Airport and the surrounding community.” 

CPARA says that the Direct Capital Access Act legislation would add approximately 9,250 extra passengers a day or 3.37 million a year at DCA, which is already catering for 9 million more annual passengers than it was designed to do.

The MWAA, which also opposes the legislation, also recently revealed that DCA’s main runway was already the busiest in the US with an average of 819 commercial operations a day, far above the closest competitor at LAX, which served an average of 781.

In response to the creation of CPARA, the Capital Access Alliance (CAA) supports the changes and said that the coalition’s claims were “without merit” and aimed at “misleading the public”. 

Brian Walsh, a CAA spokesperson, said: “The DCA Act is aimed at giving air travellers more choices at lower prices and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that those opposing it are trying to limit competition and maintain the status quo in Washington with fictitious arguments.”