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Highlights

In 1999, GAO reported that Reagan National Airport could accommodate at least 36 more slots, which are authorizations from the Department of Transportation (DOT) for a takeoff or landing. In 2000 and 2003, two federal statutes, known as AIR-21 and Vision 100, permitted DOT to award 44 new slots to airlines, 24 of which could be used for flights to cities more than 1,250 miles, which was the statutorily mandated limit for non stop flights from Reagan National. The DOT awards went to airlines serving six cities (Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle). For this year's reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), GAO was asked for an update on the capacity of Reagan National to accommodate additional slots and the effect of relaxing the perimeter rule. GAO updated its 1999 study to answer these key questions: (1) To what extent can Reagan National accommodate additional flights? (2) Since AIR-21 and Vision 100, what changes have occurred in market share and fares for flights operating between the six beyond-perimeter cities and the three Washington, D.C., area airports? In commenting on this report, DOT and the airports authority generally agree with our findings but with one exception, the airports authority disagrees with DOT's estimate of slots because it disputes their methodological assumptions. We believe the department's methodology for estimating airport capacity is appropriate.

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