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Summer is in full swing, and a record-breaking travel season is upon us. No matter where you may be heading for business or pleasure, Texas travelers currently enjoy thousands of flight options that can transport you nearly anywhere in the world, often with just one stop in Dallas or Houston, originating from Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.
However, for Texans visiting Washington, D.C., this summer, accessing our nation’s capital could soon become more difficult, as some in Congress are supporting new rules that would limit access from our state’s airports and hand over current Texas routes to those on the West Coast.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, located about three miles from Washington, is some of the most congested and restricted airspace in the world, designed to accommodate short-haul flights due to its size, location and geographic inability to expand. Because of these limitations, DCA abides by a perimeter rule, meaning only flights within 1,250 miles of DCA can serve the airport — which includes Texas’ two largest airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Other flights, including long-haul routes, serve Dulles International Airport, located about 30 miles from D.C., which was built to accommodate bigger jets, more passengers and the ability to expand. The airports, each specifically designed with this framework in mind, work in tandem to accommodate air travel from around the world.
Passengers in Brownsville rely on connections through DFW and IAH to unlock far-flung destinations like London, Madrid and even Washington. But by expanding the perimeter, the routes Texans currently enjoy likely would be reshuffled and given away to more profitable long-haul cities, decreasing options for Brownsville travelers. Further, the loss of flights would be devastating to our local economy, disrupting tourism and the 1,800 well-paying jobs and $178.9 million in economic output generated annually by BRO.
It’s because of our passengers and the routes they rely on that Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport has joined the Coalition to Protect America’s Regional Airports alongside other small regional airports and chambers of commerce from around the country, urging lawmakers not to support changes to DCA’s high-density (slot) and perimeter rules.
Notably, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates both DCA and Dulles, is also firmly against changing the slot and perimeter rules, citing increased congestion and delays at DCA, whose infrastructure can barely accommodate its current passenger and flight traffic. According to MWAA, the addition of 20 round-trip operations from DCA would increase the airport’s current flight delays by nearly 26%.
Revoking the perimeter rule would set a bad precedent, handing over operational control to Congress and limiting airports from making their own decisions that reflect the unique air travel needs in its region. Lawmakers should be advocating on behalf of the regional airport authorities best equipped to make safe and efficient decisions for the communities they serve, not the other way around.
With a record-breaking summer travel season well underway, airlines and airports across Texas are focusing their efforts on reducing congestion, delays and creating a safe and sustainable air travel season. Removing the perimeter rule does nothing to achieve these goals and is not in the interest of Texans, as it risks disrupting critical routes and reducing accessibility from communities like ours.
For every BRO passenger — whether you live here and utilize our many flight options or you’re visiting the best beaches Texas has to offer — we cannot sit idly by while lawmakers attempt to remove the perimeter rule, limiting options for all travelers who live in and visit the great state of Texas — this summer and beyond.
Michael Giardino is the interim airport assistant director for the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.