As reported by Jake Sherman at Punchbowl News, there are discussions going on about possibly adding more exemptions to DCA’s perimeter rule. Let’s go over the details — personally I’m strongly in favor of this.The basics of Washington National Airport’s perimeter ruleCoalition aims to alter DCA perimeter ruleWhy I’m in favor of DCA perimeter rule changesBottom lineThe basics of Washington National Airport’s perimeter ruleReagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is the airport closest to Washington DC, and is therefore the favored airport for most politicians. The airport isn’t very large and there’s a lot of demand for it (given how lucrative government business can be for airlines), so it’s slot controlled.The airport has what’s known as a perimeter rule, which has been around since 1966, when jets started flying to the airport. This rule generally prohibits airlines from operating routes longer than 1,250 statute miles nonstop.However, there are a limited number of exemptions, whereby up to 40 daily flights (20 roundtrips) are allowed to destinations farther than that. Current destinations beyond the perimeter rule include Austin (AUS), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX), Portland (PDX), Salt Lake City (SLC), San Francisco (SFO), San Juan (SJU), and Seattle (SEA).What’s the logic for the perimeter rule? Well, this was initially intended to protect Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) as the transcontinental and international gateway for the area. The concern at the time was that Dulles Airport couldn’t thrive if National Airport wasn’t limited in this way.By the way, there’s an honorable story about late Senator John McCain related to the perimeter rule. In 1999, he led an effort to repeal the perimeter rule. He wasn’t successful, but some exemptions (including one to his home airport of Phoenix) were allowed. He reportedly refused to take the nonstop flight and rather opted to connect, so that it didn’t appear that he was just trying to repeal the rule for his own interests.Washington National Airport has a 1,250-mile perimeter ruleCoalition aims to alter DCA perimeter ruleDelta Air Lines is backing a new coalition that’s trying to further adjust the perimeter rule at DCA, by adding an additional 20-25 exempted slots at the airport. This is being pushed by the Capital Access Alliance, which has enlisted the help of Boston Consulting Group to create a study to back this concept. Interestingly one of the lobbyists is a close friend of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (you’ve gotta love how politics works).The proposal includes the ability to add flights from the airport to San Antonio (SAT) and San Diego (SAN), which are the seventh and eighth largest cities in the United States, respectively, and which don’t currently have any exempt flights.Since Delta is supportive of this, it’s probably worth noting that Delta’s current exempted routes include service to Los Angeles (LAX) and Salt Lake City (SLC). I have to imagine that Delta would love to add additional flights in those markets, as well as service to Seattle (SEA), and maybe even to San Diego (SAN).I’d be curious to know if American is in favor of this proposal or not. While you’d think that American would want to operate some more exempt routes from DCA, the airline also currently has the largest presence at the airport. American might actually prefer protecting its current position in the market. It’s the same as how British Airways isn’t necessarily in favor of expanding slots at London Heathrow, given the favorable position the airline has.Delta is behind the proposal to add perimeter rule exemption flightsWhy I’m in favor of DCA perimeter rule changesI’m hugely in favor of the perimeter rule at DCA being eliminated altogether.First of all, there’s not a risk of Washington Dulles Airport failing anymore. The airport is a major hub for United, Washington National would still be slot restricted (so wouldn’t actually see a net expansion in terms of number of flights), and the population in Northern Virginia has increased significantly over the years.More importantly, though, airlines really aren’t operating service at Washington National Airport that’s in the best interest of consumers. A huge percentage of flights at the airport are in high frequency markets with regional jets.That’s because airlines don’t want to lose their slots (and slots have a use ’em or lose ’em clause), so they basically just fly regional jets nearly hourly in many markets. Being able to operate more nonstop flights would almost certainly cause airlines to increase capacity in some existing markets, and in turn upgrade aircraft on existing routes.For example, rather than American operating 12 regional jets per day between Washington and New York, wouldn’t it be better to have eight flights with larger jets, and then four flights to new destinations that aren’t currently served?As far as I’m concerned the perimeter rule should be discontinued altogether, rather than just having additional exemptions made.There are way too many regional jets at Washington National AirportBottom lineWhile we’ll see if anything comes of it, Delta is lobbying for more perimeter rule slot exemptions at Washington National Airport. The current proposal is for an additional 20-25 daily slots to be exempt, allowing more nonstop flights between the airport and destinations that are 1,250+ statute miles away.It’s anyone’s guess if this proves successful. Personally I think the perimeter rule should be eliminated altogether, as the concept is so outdated, and doesn’t benefit consumers.What do you think — should the DCA perimeter rule DCA be abolished, or should we at least see exemptions expanded?