DC airport change will impact Alaskans

By Matt Alward

As an Alaskan fisherman, I know the reality and necessity of airplane travel, as I’ve spent countless hours traveling across our state on small planes and jets alike. Though we’re not served with a direct flight to the Washington, D.C. area, Alaskans often spend long hours on the cross-country flight between Seattle and D.C., followed by a “short” – by Alaska standards – jaunt to or from Anchorage. Unfortunately, however, the convenience of the direct flights between D.C. and Alaska Airlines West Coast hubs, like Seattle, may be threatened by the proposal of an expanded perimeter zone around Washington, D.C.’s Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA).

This perimeter was initially enacted to support the vision of DCA serving short-haul regional flights (ensuring that small cities across the Eastern part of the USA have access to our nation’s capital), with just a handful of exceptions to key hubs outside the current perimeter. In turn, with Dulles Airport serving as the hub for long-haul national and international flights, each plays an important role in ensuring Americans maintain convenient access to our capital city.

Through my work as the president of United Fishermen of Alaska, and as a commercial fisherman myself, I see every day the importance of advocating for our fisheries. Favorable policy outcomes for the fisheries that support countless communities across Alaska are the direct result of effective, unique messaging and face-to-face advocacy, made possible by efficient travel from our state to our nation’s capital. I travel back and forth between Alaska and D.C. often to fight for the hard-working harvesters on our waters. Without that access, the success and advancement of Alaskan fisheries are at risk — along with everything they support.

Aside from the impacts to rural communities and the sheer inconvenience of current direct flight schedules changing, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently found increased flights through DCA — as a result of the perimeter increasing — would substantially increase delays and operational inefficiencies, something not suitable for the Alaskans advocating for our state in D.C. Moreover, Delta Airlines continues to leverage its industry might by leading a coalition to support this perimeter increase — a move that may ultimately threaten the current Alaska Airlines flights that many Alaskans take when traveling to Washington, D.C.

As residents of one of the farthest states from our nation’s capital, Alaskans already face challenges in accessing our nation’s center of government and influencing the decisions that are made there. This rule change would only make those challenges worse. I join numerous Alaskans in encouraging our Congressional delegation to oppose this rule change. Though not directly impacting our airports in Alaska, the potential changes for our hubs across the West Coast will negatively impact Alaskans as we travel to and from our nation’s capital seeking to advocate for our people and communities.


Matt Alward is the president of United Fishermen of Alaska who operates his seine vessel in the Kodiak salmon fishery and is a Gulf of Alaska halibut quota holder. Based out of Homer, Matt raised his family on the back deck of his seiner fishing for salmon, herring, and halibut.