FAA bill includes more Reagan National flights Delta wants

Delta’s push for more flights at the Washington, D.C. airport faced strong opposition

A long-awaited five-year Federal Aviation Administration bill passed by Congress includes a provision that Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines fought to have included, in spite of strenuous opposition.

The FAA reauthorization bill includes language to add five roundtrip flights at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport, where Delta wants to grow. The measure cleared its final hurdle in Congress with approval by the U.S. House on Wednesday.

It took an act of Congress to allow more flights at National because the airport near the nation’s capital has tight restrictions on flights that go farther than 1,250 miles.

National is a favorite airport of many lawmakers, lobbyists and businesspeople who frequent the nation’s capital because it sits just across the Potomac River from the District of Columbia.

Delta originally wanted dozens of additional flights from National, and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, last year introduced legislation that would allow airlines to add 28 roundtrip flights a day from National — a 13% increase — without any limitations on distance.

It faced vociferous pushback by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates both National and Dulles and argued that National is already overcrowded, along with opposition from United Airlines and D.C.-area members of Congress.

The conflict contributed to a series of delays over the last year in gaining passage of the massive FAA bill, which contains many other measures to improve aviation safety and passenger rights.

On Tuesday, Delta issued a statement saying the provision included in the bill at final passage “will create much needed competition for all air travelers seeking access to the nation’s capital region.”

“Delta looks forward to the Department of Transportation’s award process” for the flights, the airline said.

Opponents, organized as the Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports, said the additional flights at National “will undoubtedly lead to further delays, cancellations and congestion on America’s busiest runway,” according to a written statement.

The group thanked its members for their “tireless efforts to rein back a sustained, misguided campaign” that sought dozens more flights at National, and said, “it is thanks to their efforts that the outcome was not worse.”

Beyond the feud over flights at National, Delta in its statement said it “applauds the passage of the bipartisan and bicameral FAA Reauthorization bill, which was carefully and thoughtfully negotiated after months of hard work.”

“This five-year bill will go a long way in advancing aviation safety, while providing certainty, development and training for the FAA’s workforce,” Delta said.