Negotiations have been ongoing for many months, but the Senate has finally hammered out a tentative deal that would further loosen the perimeter rule at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
I provided a background on the history and politics of the DCA perimeter rule in a previous post, but since then the tentative legislation has crystalized. Under the Senate bill, which the House of Representatives must agree to and President must sign, 16 additional daily round-trip flights between National Airport and the western U.S. would be added. Currently, there are 12 daily flights beyond the perimeter.
The key question, still undecided, is who will get the beyond-perimeter flights. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has proposed that seven of the flights be offered to carriers that already serve DCA (not granting them extra slots, but allowing them to move some of their flights within the perimeter to outside the perimeter), and five new slots be added for carriers with little or no service to DCA. Four slots would be reserved for addition at a later time, if studies demonstrated that their addition would not add too much congestion to the airport.
With Hutchison charing the committee and micromanaging the bill, look for American and Continental/United to benefit from this deal. Maybe we’ll even see a n/s flight on Southwest from Dallas Love to Washington National, which would indicate a great deal of progress toward weakening the outmoded concept of perimeter rules.
I still hold out a bit of hope that with United/Continental’s stronger presence in the New York City market now (at Newark), United may be pull a couple p.s. flights from JFK and start daily service to DCA from LAX and SFO in a p.s. configured aircraft.