With Delta’s Richard Anderson retiring, we lose the most cronyist airline CEO in the country, who seeks to use government to gain every possible advantage over competitors and sees taxpayers as his own bank account.
With his team simply being elevated, it’s possible that Delta stays this course. But there’s also an opening. And United may be looking to fill it.
Via Live and Let’s Fly, United successfully killed an effort to expand the ‘perimeter rule’ at Washington’s National airport from 1250 miles to 1475 miles. Because they don’t want competition to be allowed against their flights at Washington Dulles.
As I explained in 2003,
The originally stated purpose of the 1250 mile limit, or “perimeter rule,” was to allow Washington-Dulles airport to build itself up as a base for long-haul flights. Ironically, by limiting the distance of flights at the close-in airport, National got more short flights and Dulles did not. So there wasn’t enough feeder traffic for long-haul flights, and the development of Dulles as a hub was hampered for a decade. The perimeter rule forced Dulles to more or less rely of the DC market for its flights instead of supplementing that traffic with connecting traffic.
The perimeter rule was backward, it had the opposite effect from what was intended for a long time. But United has the substantial presence there, and offering longer flights from National would compete against their flights.
The expansion of flights from Washington National was advocated by Congressman Blake Farenthold, a former regular poster on Flyertalk who sought the possibility of direct service to Corpus Christi which he represents (and which is 1404 miles from National airport).
United takes credit for killing the move, acknowledging their motivations, in an employee newsletter:
United’s Congressional Affairs team worked with Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and several Republicans and Democrats on the House Transportation Committee to oppose the amendment.
…The current perimeter rule ensures many smaller markets in the eastern U.S. continue to have non-stop air service to the nation’s capital and that IAD remains the region’s international hub airport. Without it, airlines at DCA would have a strong economic incentive to substitute more profitable long-haul service to large West Coast markets, while drawing traffic away from United’s Dulles hub.
United spokesman Charles Hobart declined to provide additional explanation.
It’s absolutely true that Washington National, with a fixed number of allowable flights, has more short haul flights than it otherwise would. (Indeed, it was small communities which lost flights when slots were taken away from American Airlines as part of its acquisition by US Airways.)
It’s not obviously true that those markets would lose service altogether. In fact, there would be more of a mix of short and long distance flights at Washington National, and less short distance competition at Dulles making such flights more profitable to offer there.
However United gives away its motivation in seeking to maintain government protection for Washington Dulles: it doesn’t want competition which could draw away traffic on its longer distance flights.