WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United States Senate approved by voice vote an amendment that will increase new direct flights to the West Coast and encourage new carriers to promote increased competition.
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley worked with his colleagues, including Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, on the compromise amendment in hopes that increased West Coast direct flights to National Airport would provide Oregonians with more travel options and boost economic growth.
Currently, only a handful of airlines control the vast majority of flights leaving Washington National Airport (DCA). And there are very few flights allowed beyond a 1,250 mile perimeter around the airport.
The compromise amendment passed today will allow some carriers to convert their existing within-perimeter routes into routes serving the Western half of the United States. Importantly, it will also allow for five new Western flights by regional airlines and others currently underrepresented at National Airport– increasing the chances for Portland to gain a direct flight to the nation’s capital.
“New direct flights to the East Coast mean new jobs and business opportunities for Oregon. In a globalized world, better connections to the rest of the country are essential if we are to attract companies,” said Merkley. “While this amendment is not perfect, it does create new opportunities for flights to underserved communities. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to ensure that we are moving towards better connections for Oregon.”
Merkley offered an amendment that would have allowed eight new flights from Washington National airport to the Western United States. While a vote was not allowed on that amendment, the amendment passed today does reflect the principle of increasing new flights and also gives priorities to airlines with few flights out of Washington National currently.