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The addition of flights at DCA draws mixed reaction

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(The Center Square) – Critics and proponents of expanding flight options in and out of Reagan National Airport are weighing in on the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill, which would add five round-trip flights to the airport.

The bipartisan legislation passed both the House and Senate despite Virginia U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner strongly opposed adding the flights.

Supporters of the expansion, including The Capital Access Alliance, a coalition of transportation and business leaders, applauded the legislation, claiming the victory will increase affordability and options for fliers.

“These five new flights will enhance consumer choice and affordability without compromising safety. This is a momentous victory for travelers in every corner of the nation,” Brian Walsh, spokesperson for CAA, said in a statement.

Critics of the expansion expressed concern about the strain additional flights will have on the already hectic runway, which they say is the busiest in the nation, serving nearly 25 million passengers a year. Despite their disappointment in the passage, they say it could have been much worse.

The Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports applauded lawmakers who opposed the expansion by reining in a “misguided campaign to add 56 daily flights to an already overburdened” airport. They credited senators, including Kaine and Warner, for prioritizing “safety” while ensuring the legislation “did not lead to a dramatically worse passenger experience at DCA.”

“The ten additional daily DCA flights included in the final bill will undoubtedly lead to further delays, cancellations and congestion on America’s busiest runway, but it is thanks to their efforts that the outcome was not worse,” according to a press release from the CPARA.

In a joint statement, Kaine and Warner chastised the Senate for failing to protect the safety of those who fly through the airport each year, citing a recent incident where two aircraft nearly collided.

“The Senate abdicated its responsibility to protect the safety of the 25 million people who fly through DCA every year. Just weeks after two aircraft nearly crashed into one another at DCA, this body refused to take up our commonsense amendment to remove a dangerous provision that would have crammed more flights onto the busiest runway in America,” the senators said in a statement.

Kaine and Warner said they offered a compromise that would have allowed the experts to make the decision. However, the compromise was ultimately rejected, as the senators claimed supporters prioritized convenience over safety.

“We even offered a compromise: another amendment that would have given the Secretary of Transportation the power to settle this matter after considering the implications more flights would have on delays and passenger safety. But some of our colleagues were too afraid to let the experts make the call. They didn’t want to show the American people that they care more about a few lawmakers’ desire for direct flights than they care about the safety and convenience of the traveling public,” the senators lamented.

Kaine and Warner cited data from the FAA that says the additions will “increase delays by 725 minutes per day, leading to a total of 12,734 minutes of overall daily delay at the airport.”

The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.

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