Guest Column

Increasing Air Travel Options for the Western U.S. Makes Sense for Montana

Congress can help facilitate additional growth in air travel options for Western communities by supporting the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization

By Jane Gillette

It is an excellent time to be a business owner in Montana. Americans from all corners of our nation are beginning to get back out and adventure, and many of them are coming to our great state. This increased traffic, combined with our burgeoning technology sector here in Bozeman, has made for a stronger and healthier economy.
A key factor in the economic growth of the Gallatin Valley is access to air travel. This year Congress can help facilitate additional growth in air travel options for western communities like ours by supporting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization. Included with this reauthorization is a proposal, known as the DCA Act, to add more flights to Reagan National Airport (DCA) from the western United States.
More direct flights to the western part of the country from DCA, even if not to and from Montana specifically, would increase the ability of those in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to come to our state. This would provide increased access for remote workers evaluating Montana as a place to settle and further strengthen our tourism industry. For Montana, these additional flights make sense and would provide tremendous value.
Currently, access to and from DCA is limited by the “perimeter rule,” which was established in the 1960s. The rule restricts the number of flights that can take off and land beyond a 1,250-mile perimeter of DCA, making access to the nation’s capital unnecessarily difficult for those of us out West, while making the western part of the country less accessible for those in the national capital region.
A recent study confirms that the perimeter rule is no longer necessary to meet its 1960s-era objectives.
By moving the perimeter rule into the modern era, our lawmakers can reverse some of the unintended consequences we’re seeing. For instance, the study found that adding in- and beyond-perimeter flights to and from DCA would lower ticket prices for passengers. Airfare for those traveling to DCA is currently the highest among airports in the top 10 metropolitan areas nationwide. Additionally, passengers flying to DCA typically have to make at least one connecting flight. The economic benefits and added convenience are undeniable.
As Montana continues to grow in the coming years, it will be key to ensure access to and from Washington, D.C. keeps pace. The number of people seeking to visit us and work remotely in our state is only going to keep rising. Growing tech hubs like Bozeman will have a leg up when recruiting candidates to a remote, yet accessible destination. Demonstrable success in doing so could very well incentivize additional companies to call Montana home in the coming years. 
Additionally, business leaders in our state and their employees will continue to depend on access to policymakers and regulators in our nation’s capital – especially for Montana’s tech companies. The same goes for leaders in Montana’s agriculture and energy sectors, as well as those on the front lines of environmental and conservation efforts. Much of the policy that impacts them is shaped at the federal level.
By increasing affordable and convenient access to states beyond DCA’s 1,250-mile perimeter, Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines can help Montana capitalize on the desire of so many to visit or make the state their permanent home, as well as help Montanans who are counting on enhanced access to the national capital region. I encourage them to support adding additional flights to and from DCA through the DCA Act to help our great state continue to grow.

Jane Gillette is a Republican state representative from Gallatin County.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.