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Opinion: Proposed Changes to The Reagan National Airport Are Awful for Missourians

Currently, there is a piece of legislation being considered in the U.S. House that, if passed, would harm Missouri’s airports, economy, tourism, and job market. This legislation proposes changes to the slot and perimeter rule at Reagan National Airport (DCA) and will negatively impact Missourians. The perimeter rule is a 1,250-mile radius from DCA that allows airlines to fly nonstop to and from within, meaning St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) and Kansas City International Airport (MCI) are within the perimeter. The slot rule is a set frequency for takeoffs and landings at DCA established by Congress in 1986 and managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) since. The MWAA has stated there is insufficient capacity to withstand the proposed changes at DCA. Changes will force airlines to reevaluate direct flights offered to Washington, D.C., and likely cause smaller airports to lose access.

This legislation will hurt Missouri. If Congress changes or eliminates the perimeter rule, Missouri airports could lose direct access to our nation’s capital because airlines will begin prioritizing long-haul flights from cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, and Seattle. Passengers flying out of St. Louis (STL) and Kansas City (MCI) will likely have to use connecting flights out of larger cities and airports like Chicago, Atlanta, and Minneapolis to fly to and from DCA, opening the door for increased travel headaches.

Retaining the current rules that have served us well for nearly 35 years is the best option to preserve economic opportunities for Missouri. However, if STL and MCI lose flights, airport employees, restaurant workers, air traffic controllers, and many others who rely on economic activity around the airport will be impacted in addition to the passengers at the airports.

We must preserve access to our nation’s capital. Direct flights to and from our nation’s capital and our Missouri airports should not be “bumped” in favor of long-haul flights to and from West Coast cities. Protect the perimeter rule at DCA.