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Adding Flights from the Pacific Northwest to D.C. Would Help Both Washingtons

Apr 30, 2024

In so many ways, the success and health of Washington state’s communities depend on our relationship with the other Washington. Local residents and organizations solicit federal funding; they advocate for federal policy changes that improve lives; and there are multiple Washington-based companies with major employment in and around our national’s capital.

Yet, anyone who has flown from Seattle to Washington, D.C., knows that their direct options are limited – either landing at Dulles or Baltimore and facing long commutes, or else competing for limited seats on the two daily flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

As a Port of Seattle Commissioner with direct responsibility for ensuring that our aviation and maritime facilities meet the needs of local residents, I know that ensuring competition provides travelers with more options, increased flexibility, and lower prices. Yet the obscure, 1960s-era federal regulation known as the “perimeter rule” has prohibited flights to and from locations outside of a 1,250-mile radius from DCA. While there are limited exceptions for flights beyond this perimeter, this rule impacts flight options for major western U.S. markets, including Seattle.

For this reason, I celebrate changes included in the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act to add five additional direct flights into DCA from beyond the perimeter.

This rule has not only resulted in less accessible travel to the nation’s capital, but also limited economic opportunities as well as local communities’ ability to connect to the place where important decisions are being made every single day.

When passed into law in the coming weeks, this policy will create an opportunity for regions like the Pacific Northwest to potentially get new direct flights into our nation’s capital.

I am very sympathetic to the concerns of those who opposed changes to the perimeter rule – particularly those communities near DCA that are concerned about additional aircraft flying overhead. As the nation’s air travel fully recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be increasingly focused on the people on the ground in addition to those flying in the planes. I am pleased that the Port of Seattle advocated successfully to include multiple policies in the FAA bill to address aircraft noise and emissions.

Of course, passage of the FAA bill is only the first step in efforts to secure more direct flight options from the Pacific Northwest to Washington, D.C. It will take a coordinated advocacy effort by business, government, tourism, and economic development stakeholders to push for the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider our region instead of other places that have no current DCA service. Our compelling arguments will be focused on how adding more direct flights will not only give travelers more affordable and accessible options, but it will also help increase representation of our communities in the nation’s capital, stimulate more tourism, and drive more economic opportunity.

Modernizing the DCA perimeter rule has the potential to be a win-win for both Washingtons. I look forward to working with community leaders to take advantage of this major opportunity.


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