The Honorable Reason John McCain Refused To Fly Nonstop Between Washington & Phoenix

Filed Under: Media

Over the weekend we learned of the tragic passing of Senator John McCain. I don’t want to make this political, so I’ll simply say that he seemed like a great guy, and my thoughts are with his family and friends. There’s enough politicizing of this going on, and I don’t want to add that.

There are lots of positive stories coming out following his passing, and there’s one that’s aviation related that I can’t help but share here. Of course this pales in comparison to some of his other life stories, but it’s quite an interesting anecdote nonetheless, and relevant to this site.

John McCain was a senator in Arizona, and like most senators, commuted back and forth between his home state and Washington DC all the time. For many years that would have required a connection, but in 2000 America West began flying nonstop between Washington Regan Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

But he refused to take that flight for many years, and rather continued to connect. Why? No, not because the ex-America West/US Airways fleet is garbage, or because he was trying to earn extra elite qualifying segments. 😉

The reason involves Reagan Airport’s perimeter rule, as explained by USA Today:

Flights at Reagan Airport are restricted to a distance of 1,250 miles, though Congress has sporadically “exempted” certain flights from that “perimeter rule.” McCain led an effort to repeal the rule in 1999. It failed but ultimately helped lead to exemptions that included up to three daily nonstop flights on the 1,979-mile route between Washington and Phoenix.

McCain’s refusal to take the new nonstop was his way of stubbornly sticking to a vow he made in response to criticism that he only wanted the flights so he could shorten his commute.

“To John, that was such an abhorrent thing to be accused of, he just took it off the table and said, “OK, I won’t fly it,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker recalled. “I don’t think any other member (of Congress) would make that statement.”

Over the years this allegedly caused him to miss lots of major events, but on principle he stuck to it. At some point, after several years, he did begin taking the nonstop flight, at a point when he said no one noticed or cared anymore.

Interesting stuff! For what it’s worth, McCain was spot on to try and repeal the perimeter rule, in my opinion. In the early days this was added to force passengers to use other airports. For example, it was added at LaGuardia to encourage people to fly out of Kennedy in the early days. But it’s an outdated and inefficient concept, and it’s nice that exceptions have been made.

(Featured image courtesy of Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)

  1. FWIW, I flew the PHX-DCA morning nonstop on AA on 7/23. Most of the AZ and some of the Southern California congressional delegation was on board, almost entirely in the back of the plane.

  2. Great story. Agreed that the perimeter rules are antiquated at this point. One thing that makes it even more ridiculous is the Congressional oversight over it- these are commerce issues that are relevant to local municipalities, but shouldn’t reach national level politics. Same thing with the Wright Amendment, which while thankfully repealed still ended up with the bass ackwards gate restriction and allocation at Love Field. I guess it’s all because of the FAA oversight over airports and routes- makes it too easy a target for Congress to give up control.

  3. Regardless of whether people agree with McCain’s politics, he should be respected as someone who sticks to his principles and always does what he believes is right.

  4. @DCJoe

    Congress is involved because it’s interstate commerce, which is expressly the purview of the Congress under our Constitution. It’s in Article I so you won’t have to read too far.

  5. Barf. Please don’t jump on the McCain bandwagon. The man had reprehensible political views and actively worked to make the country a worse place to live (for those who aren’t wealthy, anyway). His brain tumor is the real hero.

  6. I truly think that Debit is the most disgusting rabble rouser I have encountered on any blog. I you have nothing constructive and on topic to say, do not say anything.

  7. I completely agree with Ed about Debit and would add Andrew when it comes to this thread. I may disagree with many of his political positions, but John McCain is unquestionably a genuine hero and his accomplishments and memory deserves nothing less than the highest respect.

  8. I disagreed with McCain on many things, but he seemed like a legit decent man, and one of the few to stand up to Trump in the name of common decency.

  9. How about the S&L deal years ago ? Lots of WH’s lost everything But Mccaine a couple of years of lying So What Bury Him ..


  10. @Ed & GSBEWR regarding Debit’s comment – seriously, you guys can’t even comprehend the obvious & blatant sarcasm of it? Remember one of Old Yeller’s typically obnoxious, stupid statements on POW’s? A real hero gets through the agony of bone spurs, LOL!

  11. There was nothing honorable about John McCain. His whole POW story was embellished… he actually fought against POW’s for many years. Here is one veteran discussing it:

    Here is another article on it:

    And worse than all of that… he was a horrible warmonger, which every traveler should be opposed to. Wars damage America, therefore he damaged America.

    As CaveDweller notes… when not warmongering he was knee deep in the worst of the S&L scam. He was a horrible individual, a disgrace to this country, and to all the people that get up in the morning and do actual work… rather than stealing their money through politics.

  12. Those who are angry at Debit are legitimately and certifiably dumb. Look at the dictionary to find the word “sarcasm.” God, I can’t believe one has to explain this to these idiots.

  13. It was a great honor to meet Senator McCain one time when I was transiting DCA. He was coming off a plane hurrying to get somewhere in DC and had staff in tow but still stopped and shook my hand and chatted for a second. Meant the world to me. A true American hero. R.I.P.

  14. People, I am very sorry to have hurt your feelings. I have been taking a course at trump university on “how to be more sensitive” to other people’s emotions. I swear I am following the teachings very closely.

  15. @Andrew – From your comment I can only I imagine people will be saying the same of you one day … no matter how you feel about someone’s politics there is no excuse for being so incredibly crass!! And before anyone jumps all over this, I’m not from the US and have no political buy-in at all.

  16. Why is this a good story? He didn’t take the flight only so that people wouldn’t accuse him of stuff. It was about him, this action made no difference to anyone else. Once he thought no one was watching, he took advantage of the nonstops he had pulled strings to allow.

    All myths are about putting together stories by selecting only the convenient truths. He was a man of principle as long as you don’t mention the S&L scandal.

    Of course, compared to the lying turd now in power, McCain was a saint.

  17. DaKine
    Good post once ur a WH retired that’s IT no more Job income and Kenton 7 I think it was called was paying off Mccain to keep the Gov. off his back . My ma had one of her friends lose $250K because he wasn’t that bright by keeping more then FDIC ins paid for .A lot Old people lose their smarts and a lot of their kids aren’t to bright too ..If u don’t have money that’s ur deal but to lose it that way is RUBBISH ..


  18. Nice story!! Thank you Lucky for posting this very interesting tidbit about John McCain. Much appreciated!

  19. @Debit’s sister
    because after 8 year of Obama legacy,somehow the whole country is madder at each other, everyone become irritated and self centre rightful, not much room left for sarcasm to survive. Good work from a Nobel peace prize laureate.

  20. Please take the time of betting
    a glimpse of Hanoi, today. If you visit the proper areas, you’ll be able tô considerate how much of o Hero John McCain was. And please take your time to read and listen of what the locals have to say about the Senator … politics appart, he was one hell of a guy! With respect, from Portugal !

  21. R.I.P. senator, you are among the better ones out there.
    But, the only part I make out of this is not really honorable.

    “a vow he made in response to criticism that he only wanted the flights so he could shorten his commute.”
    “At some point, after several years, he did begin taking the nonstop flight, at a point when he said no one noticed or cared anymore.”

    This just supports why politicians are hypocrites.

    Honorable should be, he refused till the day he died or until the (outdated) perimeter rule got repealed. Not as bad the big 3 auto flying private jets to ask for bailouts.

  22. @Rob while the age seems to make a full life, the disease itself is incredibly tragic. Dying of age is one thing, but literally falling apart from the top down and becoming unfunctional in such a short time span is tragic to watch.

  23. Ah yes… It always comes back to Trump, the Draft Dodger. Lucky you knew it was going to get down to this level when you posted this.

  24. @Mattt
    Ok, if you say so. By your definition though, nobody dies of old age. There is always some other reason. The reasons just coincidentally tend to happen to 80 yr olds a lot more often I guess. Tragic.

  25. I would disagree that the perimeter rule is a bad idea. When you have old, close in airports like JFK and DCA, I think it’s good to limit them to flights under a certain length, since these flights are often commuter flights, with people flying in and out in a day or two. I’m not sure how else you could allow multiple airlines to compete unimpeded without some type of arbitrary criteria like this.

  26. I would disagree that the perimeter rule is a bad idea. When you have old, close in airports like LGA and DCA, I think it’s good to limit them to flights under a certain length. These flights are often commuter flights, on smaller equipment, with people flying in and out in a day or two.

    I’m not sure how else you could allow multiple airlines to compete fairly without some type of arbitrary rule like this. (And it makes sense for limited exceptions, like LGADEN).

  27. I’m sorry for his family, but John McCain was no hero and an old angry man. I’m glad the democratic senator from AZ is no longer able to say vile things about our President. I didn’t vote for Trump, although I voted for another candidate. McCain should have flown the non-stop flight and quit trying to grandstand.

  28. @Broc

    Now who decides what limited exception like LGA DEN is fair? Just because DEN got grandfathered in doesn’t make it fair. If you make DEN fair, shouldn’t they include PHX and SLC??? Oh wait that is just fair for the legacies, lets add LAS for Spirit and SEA for Alaska (which I think is why they made exceptions for DCA).

    The perimeter rule was to help new airports (then) to survive. Now even the ‘new’ airports are congested. And IAD is also like trash these days. You said DCA/LGA is often small commuter, think of the causality. Short flight leads to small plane or rule leads to small plane. I’m pretty sure there are more people flying LAX/SFO-JFK for a few hour meeting and leave than say BUF/SYR-LGA on a small commuter for a day or two.

    If you want airlines to compete fairly, there should NOT be rules. The only reason acceptable in this day and age is slot/runway restrictions due to congestion. How airlines decide what plane to fly to where is up to them. Now that is fair.
    Would be a dream come true flying DCA-LCY on a lieflat seat.

  29. Can’t wait until the death of the Orangutan. It will be a World Series/NBA Championship parade everywhere and I’m already on record for serving my friends Harlan, Realm, Aubert, Joseph Phelps, Pontet-Canet, d’Yquem, Scarecrow and Turley. Hell I may just do that party once a year to kick dirt in his fat ass to remind him he is dead and will die in disgrace!

  30. Interesting story. I think there were many occasions when he most certainly came off as an honorable man, and I’m sure a few where he did not. I do not care for politicians and I do not care about people fighting wars (if they only knew the truth). So I do not get onboard with all the military boo hoo’ing.

    His passing was not tragic, it was LIFE! The disease part if true, of course is horrible. (but then the cure has been around for a long long long time). Death greets us all when its our time, so it was not tragic….he had a huge globally recognized career. Probably the second most famous US Senator globally after Clinton so he achieved much. There are many many rumours that point to his Vietnam capture as not being what has been fed to the gullible sheep…I mean public.

    Anyway “hero” or not, (probably not) I do not care beyond this post.

    This person is loved and hated. He died at an old age (so had a full life). I’m sure his family and friends will miss him, and of course crazy people who never met him….and so that’s life.

    The perimeter rule needs to go, but as long as it inconveniences the public, its just another chip to irritate humans, so probably going nowhere.

    btw – some Trump supporters think he is not dead and was shipped off to Gitmo…they are very happy about this.

    Overall sad world.

    Oh and in case I was not clear… Hell no do I support the US, UK or any other military/army fake set up. I am anti-war either on earth or anywhere in the solar system and galaxy – hmmm and beyond.

    People should spend more time thinking about what happened to Centauri Proxima earlier this year and that we are next! Schumann Resonance and other things that actually effect us each. The death of a senator, human or otherwise does not. All this crying…jeeez.

    Goodnight 🙂

  31. “….he did begin taking the nonstop flight…”. That’s honorable and not hypocritical???? But his daughter has alternative lifestyle so he’s a god?

    You’re either all in or your not. So my wife will give me a pass if I’m faithful for 20 years and then cheat? Lol. summed up why the RINO couldn’t beat a West Texas frat boy.

  32. RIP John. You were the only Republican who had compassion/conviction/courage for the poor/vulnerable . It’s non-existent these days in Trumpism and in his supporters who are brainwashed by State TV Fox “Fake” News!

  33. @got to love Obama

    That wasn’t due to Obama, that was because too many proud-to-be-anti-intellectual white people couldn’t stand having a negro as their president…and can’t deal with that fact that America’s demographics are changing, and not in the way they like.

  34. Jordan said: “Oh and in case I was not clear… Hell no do I support the US, UK or any other military/army fake set up. I am anti-war either on earth or anywhere in the solar system and galaxy – hmmm and beyond.”

    War is bad and all but what is the alternative to national defense? An offensive war for profit or political purposes is abhorrent (Iraq in 2003) but a war for liberation (allies against Germany and Japan in WW2 or Iraq in 1991) saves millions from slaughter. I’d rather fight for freedom than surrender to oppression.

  35. @Paul

    The 1991 Gulf War was not about liberation…if it was, then why is not nobody was involved when Turkey invaded Cyprus, Russia invaded Georgia or Ukraine, etc…it was about oil and increasing the US in the Arabian peninsula.

  36. The level of discourse in these comments is very disappointing. Is this really the way in which you converse in the US?

  37. Interesting story… I don’t think it is flattering to him. He wasted time and missed stuff in order to save face. Dumb!

  38. @Julia,

    Yep. The country is so divided is totally because of the basket of deplorable, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic. Not because of the party keeps labelling people who are not their supporters.

  39. @Got to love Obama

    Sometimes you need to call people out for what they are (“The problem isn’t that I am a homophobe, the problem is you pointing out that I am homophobe!”).

  40. He is dead and one day we’ll all be. If he was a good or bad person that doesn’t matter anymore. Why people usually like to praise other only when they’re dead. Do it when they’re alive… RIP

  41. Interesting story…I’m flying the redeye PHX-DCA 1542 tomorrow night.

    I’m still not quite sure I understand the perimeter rule but thank god it’s not around anymore. I live less than 2 miles from Reagan…what a pain in the ass that would’ve been.

    Good on him.

  42. One really has to wonder about the mental health of someone who gets his jollies from trolling on a miles & points forum.

  43. Google “What the Media Leaves Out of John McCain’s Record of Militarism and Misogyny”

    John McCain began his decades-long political career after he was a naval pilot in the Vietnam War, where he spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down in Hanoi in 1967. He spent two years in solitary confinement and twice attempted suicide. He eventually would sign a statement he would regret, that was a so-called confession admitting to, quote, “crimes against the Vietnamese country and people.” This experience made him a lifelong opponent of torture. As recently as May, McCain opposed the Trump administration’s nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Haspel is a 33-year CIA veteran who was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, where at least one prisoner was waterboarded and tortured in other ways during her tenure.

    Yet, in 1973, upon McCain’s release from being a prisoner of war and his return to the United States, he wrote an article expressing support for President Nixon and the U.S. bombing of Cambodia (500K civilian casuality). After McCain’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1987, he consistently promoted war and U.S. military intervention abroad, including in the first Gulf War, Iraq invasion and occupation, as well as Iran. Here is Senator McCain joking about bombing Iran at a 2007 campaign event during his presidential bid against Barack Obama.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: You know that old Beach Boys song, “Bomb Iran”? Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb—anyway…

  44. Everyone knows that Arizona is closer to D.C. than 1250 miles because they don’t do daylight savings time. So when Utah is 2 hours behind they are 1 hour behind. And a plane can travel 600 mph, so around 600 miles is about right.

  45. @JDHogg

    What a great logic.

    LGA terminal and the distance to its runway is about the same as D.C. to AZ since a plane can travel 600 mph and it took me 1 hour from leaving the gate to reach the runway.

    New tidbits I learn today, world’s largest airport is LGA. It spans across 35 states.

  46. @Julie

    who can argue about “sometimes”. But sometimes becomes way too often and way too aggressive. Anyone who don’t share the same view with Democratic party get easily labelled one way or another. Came from a communist country, it put chill in my spine seeing the trend the last few year. More and more I feel deja Vu watching democratic party behaves.

  47. Great story…..great American. We could all learn a lesson, because like it or not most Americans have much more in common than differences but media or politics try to polarise.

  48. What’s really ridiculous is this oligopoly the government protects for domestic flights within the US airline industry. Can you imagine if Singapore, Emirates and Cathay were able to fly domestic routes? What a dream!

  49. RIP John. You were the only Republican who had compassion/conviction/courage/morals . It’s non-existent these days in Trumpism and in his supporters who are brainwashed by State TV Fox “Fake” News!

  50. Hey F Trump are you so naive that you really believe the rest of the news media other than Fox is non biased. You are the one who appears to be brainwashed.! I am a fiscal conservative, Libertarian who did not vote for Trump, but am tired of all of this Trump bashing that started before he even took office. The main stream press is all biased. If you want true news reporting look outside the US.

  51. I have been reading this site for a couple of years and often enjoy the comments. When it comes to Debit, sometimes he misfires but often he comes up with an apposite comment. In this particular thread, he hit the spot but, with some of the responses to his post, it is clear that Darwin was wrong! The human race is not evolving but devolving! How mentally vacant and semi-literate are some people? Rhetorical question of course.

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