Merkley, Wyden Introduce Amendment to Promote Oregon’s Economic Growth

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today offered an amendment designed to bolster Oregon’s ability to attract business investment and create jobs.  The measure, which would amend the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization act, would increase the number of long-distance flights originating from or going to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).  These flights would be allocated on a competitive basis to best address underserved areas and Oregon has a good possibility of getting one of those flights.

“Oregon is an attractive destination for many businesses with one notable handicap – a shortage of direct flights to the east coast,” said Merkley.  “Our amendment will encourage business to invest in Oregon and would make it easier for Oregonians to travel to our nation’s capital.”

“Portland is a major American city and major American cities should have a direct connection to cities around the country,” Wyden said. “As someone who travels to and from Oregon frequently, I understand what an impediment the lack of direct flights is to bringing people into our state.  If we want to attract investors to Oregon, we need to make Oregon more accessible.”

“Passengers from Oregon and southwest Washington would greatly benefit from additional options for nonstop air service to and from Washington, D.C.,” said Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt.  “The amendment sponsored by Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden would be a very important first step toward creating additional choices for passengers.”

Currently, only a handful of airlines have the vast majority of flights leaving Washington National Airport and there are very few flights allowed beyond a 1,250 mile perimeter around the airport.

These restrictions leave many communities un-served and without a direct flight to DCA.  Portland is one of the cities currently without a direct flight to DCA, while several other major cities, such as Los Angeles and Seattle, have only one or two direct flights.

There is strong interest in a direct flight to Portland, since currently only 13% of Portland travelers to the DC area are able to fly non-stop. Unfortunately, current law does not allow new “beyond perimeter flights.”  This discourages individuals and businesses from traveling to and from Portland and hurts Oregon’s efforts to attract new business investment.  Easier travel to the East Coast assists Oregon businesses and is attractive to businesses looking to locate in Oregon.  The Portland airport will also see increased traffic which brings economic benefits to businesses located at the airport.

The Merkley-Wyden amendment would allow eight new beyond perimeter flights at Washington National airport, and would give priority to airlines with few flights out of DCA.  Allowing these carriers an opportunity for long distance flights also increases competition at DCA, which will benefit consumers.