The addition of new international and domestic air service at Washington Dulles International Airport; key customer service enhancements, such as enhanced WiFi, improved parking options, and a major overhaul of shopping and dining options; the opening of the Silver Line Metrorail and a new, Lease and Use Agreementwith the airlines, which allows for a $1 billion customer service enhancement program at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport were significant accomplishments for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in 2014, President and CEO Jack Potter told the Airports Authority’s board of directors at their monthly meeting on Wednesday.
“This year’s many accomplishments have enhanced and strengthened the Airports Authority to help us maintain our focus on creating a world-class travel experience for our customers,” Potter said. “The new concessions program, new air service and significant corporate cost reductions, position Washington’s airports for success now, in 2015 and beyond. Our customers are seeing changes today, and they will continue to see beneficial changes in the near future as we offer additional conveniences for our passengers.”
In 2014, Dulles International added new airlines and new destinations to the more than 140 destinations it already served. On the international side, Air China began four-times weekly service to Beijing and United began new seasonal service to Madrid and Nassau, Bahamas. Domestically, ultra-low fare carrier Frontier Airlines, as well as Silver Airways, Elite Airways and United expanded options and opportunities for travelers. In addition, Alaska Airlines and Aer Lingus have announced that they will begin operating from the airport in 2015, continuing the expansion. The strong growth in new air service at Dulles provides more options for travelers and maintains the airport’s competitive stance among large hub U.S. airports.
As international passenger traffic at Dulles International continues to grow, customer enhancements were introduced to improve passengers’ travel experience. The launch of the Silver Line Express bus provides a new, attractive option for passengers traveling in the Metrorail service area. Travelers can now access Dulles International from the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station on the recently opened Silver Line for $11.90 or less. For only $5 each way, the Express bus offers free Wi-Fi, large luggage storage and a direct connection to Dulles Airport. Nearly 1,000 passengers utilized this transportation option each day during the busy Thanksgiving period.
Another customer service enhancement, which benefits passengers arriving internationally, is the recently introduced ‘Dulles Passport Express.’ This new program automates the international arrival process for many passengers traveling through Dulles. The 40 self-service passport kiosks provide faster and easier service and reduce the wait for travelers to be seen by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.
At Reagan National Airport, a recent increase in the number of passengers has strained resources, includingparking. To help alleviate parking constraints, the airport added 400 new parking spaces, creating 200 spaces in the Economy Lot, 103 in B/C Terminal Garage and 99 in a new Short-Term parking lot. The airport also introduced a reservation parking system, available at flyReagan.com/epark, which allows customers to guarantee parking availability before they leave home. Additionally, the airport rolled out a new smartphone application to more easily pay for parking.
At both airports, shopping and dining options are undergoing a major transformation to expand and improve the variety of offerings available, and enhance the experience for travelers. Notable dining openings in 2014 included iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl and returning favorite Legal Sea Foods at Reagan National. New offerings at Dulles International include Bistro Atelier, Au Bon Pain and ‘be right burger.’ For shoppers, Dulles now hosts new Tumi, Estee Lauder/MAC and Swarovski stores; while Reagan now boasts Vineyard Vines, Spanx and Brighton among its stores. More improvements to the shopping and dining experience are on the way at both airports in the coming months. For details about Dulles shops and restaurants visit here. For details about Reagan National shops and restaurants visit here.
Other major milestones in 2014 included lowering costs, through management efficiencies and debt refinancing, as well as the execution of a new airline Use and Lease Agreement, which for the first-time allows for revenue sharing between the two-airport system. The new agreement allows as much as $300 million in revenue to be shifted from Reagan National to reduce costs for Dulles International over 10 years. It also includes a robust capital construction program for Reagan National to modify existing facilities to accommodate passenger volumes. Read here for more details.
Significantly, 2014 also saw the opening of Phase 1 of the Silver Line, the culmination of the first half of the 23 mile, $6 billion construction program the Airports Authority is overseeing to connect the region’s Metrorail system to Dulles International and beyond. Construction is underway for Phase 2 of the project, which will run from the end of Phase 1 at the Wiehle-Reston East station through the airport into Loudoun County, Virginia. A major milestone was reached in August when the Airports Authority closed on a $1.28 billion low-interest federal loan through the ‘Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act’ (TIFIA) program. The finalization of the loan is a win for users of the Dulles Toll Road, the tolls from which are being used to fund a major portion of the Silver Line project. With the low-interest loan and the previous commitment of money from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Airports Authority is able to hold tolls at their current level through 2018 and limit future toll increases.
Drivers along the Dulles Toll Road received additional help in 2014, with the conversion of lanes to E-ZPass only. There are 19 toll-lanes along the Dulles Toll Road being converted from “exact change” to “E-ZPass only” to ease congestion and increase convenience for drivers. The project, which began in September, will take about a year to complete.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia, manages and operates Washington’s Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system into Loudoun County, Va. No tax dollars are used to operate the toll road, which is funded by toll revenues, or the airports, which are funded through aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions. The Silver Line construction is funded by a combination of toll-road revenues, airport contributions and federal, state and local government appropriations. The Airports Authority is led by a 17-member board of directors appointed by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the president of the United States.