Airports Authority Urges Congress to Defeat Proposals for Additional DCA Flights, which Would Increase Congestion, Stress Facilities, Inconvenience Passengers

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is urging Congress to defeat proposals to add up to 28 new flights at Reagan National Airport, which would increase the heavy congestion on its single main runway, already the busiest in America.

Reagan National (DCA), the smallest of three major airports serving Washington, D.C., averages 819 daily takeoffs and landings on its relatively short main runway – making it the most heavily utilized runway in the nation.

DCA runway is busiest in America

“DCA operates at full capacity, with a takeoff or landing every minute, for much of the day,” said Airports Authority President and CEO Jack Potter. “Adding more flights to this already-packed schedule would lead to more delays, which would result from the need to accommodate the spacing between aircraft operations that is required to assure safety.”

The next-busiest runway in the nation after DCA is at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with 781 takeoffs and landings a day, followed by runways at Newark Liberty International (EWR) with 607 and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) with 599. Potter said the runway statistics, based on published airline schedules and data from the Federal Aviation Administration, dispel claims by proponents of additional DCA flights that the airport is “underutilized.”

“How can anyone credibly say that Washington’s smallest airport, with the busiest runway in America, is underutilized?” he said. “Anyone who uses Reagan National sees the steady stream of aircraft throughout the day and has experienced the long lines of planes waiting to take off or arriving flights waiting for gate space, especially in bad weather.”

Potter added that DCA – despite being the smallest of Washington’s three major airport in terms of runway capacity, terminal space and other infrastructure – already serves 24 million passengers each year, which is more than Washington Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington airports. 

“In addition to exacerbating delays and inconveniencing customers, more flights at Reagan National would bring more crowding, more congestion and more stress on airport facilities,” he said. “While DCA is very popular because of its proximity to Capitol Hill, it simply cannot accommodate all the flights that airlines want to send to Washington.”