Why It’s Hard to Get a Convenient Flight To New York or DC from the West Coast

Let’s say you live in San Francisco and want to fly to the Colbert Rally in DC. You’ve heard that Reagan Airport (DCA) is the closest airport to DC, so you search for flights to there. And yet, no matter how hard you look, you can’t find a single non-stop flight.

You might think it’s because of short runways that can’t handle big planes, or collusion between the airlines. But really, the answer is this: the government won’t allow it.

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It’s not specific to the Colbert Rally, either. Back when Dulles Airport opened far from downtown DC, the government worried that nobody would fly from Dulles because it was so inconvenient. So the government did the sensible thing and banned long-distance, non-stop flights to Reagan, forcing people to go to Dulles instead.

A similar “perimeter rule” is still in place for LaGuardia Airport in New York, originally intended to force people to fly out of JFK.

These perimeter rules have been loosened a few times since, but you still can’t find any non-stop flights from LaGuardia or Reagan to San Francisco, Portland (OR), or San Diego.

Your government at work.

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