Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opinion: Unlocking Access: Empowering Missouri Students to Reach Washington, D.C.

There’s an important debate taking place in Congress regarding adding new flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). On the surface, it may seem like this would not impact Missouri students and families across our state, but it does.

At the heart of the discussion is whether to reform an outdated federal regulation known as the “perimeter rule,” which currently restricts flights to and from DCA beyond a 1,250-mile radius. It’s been in place for nearly 60 years, but the rule as it stands today is making travel to Washington, D.C., unnecessarily expensive because it has suppressed competition and limited choices for air travelers.

As a university student studying government and the president of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, young people like myself understand the importance of having access to our policymakers. Today’s youth and future leaders are becoming increasingly more civically engaged, with dreams of shaping public policy. That’s why affordable access to Washington, D.C. is one of the most relevant policy discussions happening today

But the federal government’s interference in the Washington, D.C. air travel market is limiting competition, leaving Missouri students with inflated ticket prices and long travel times because of inconvenient connections. Washington, D.C. is today the most expensive metropolitan area to fly into and out of, with Dulles International Airport (IAD) – the other airport in the region – holding the title of the most expensive airport. A ticket to IAD will cost Missourians an average of nearly $500.

The current perimeter rule undermines the principles of a free market. In a truly free market, there is healthy competition, which in turn drives down costs. This is how every other airport in the country operates, yet DCA is the only one bound by this anti-consumer regulation.

Senators Hawley and Schmitt and our entire Missouri delegation should support the bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3185 in the House and S. 1933 in the Senate, that would add new in- and beyond-perimeter flights to and from DCA and allow Missouri students to travel to our nation’s capital more easily and affordably.

Misinformation about adding new flights also needs to be corrected. New flights are not a threat to existing regional routes. The bill does not replace a current flight with a new one. On the contrary, it presents an opportunity for smaller hubs to potentially gain new service to DCA, like Columbia Regional Airport (COU), which serves many of the 23,000 students at the University of Missouri.

By boosting competition and creating more choice, students would benefit from improved affordability and access to our nation’s capital, paving the way to more educational and professional opportunities and allowing them to be a part of the democratic process.