Airports Authority Offers Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Published: November 15, 2010


New parking spaces, a new underground airport train system, new airlines and new security procedures are in place at Washington’s airports since last year’s Thanksgiving holiday. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority offers these tips to help our passengers prepare for some of the busiest travel days of the year.

“Our best advice is to plan ahead and arrive early during peak times,” said Lynn Hampton, Airports Authority President and CEO. “If you haven’t been to our Airports since last Thanksgiving, you will find many new improvements, including more parking spaces at Reagan National and the new AeroTrain at Dulles International.”

The Airports Authority anticipates the Thanksgiving holiday rush will start on Friday, November 19 and continue through Monday, November 29. Peak travel times are typically during the early morning (5:30 AM to 8 AM) and late afternoon (3:30 PM to 5:30 PM). There could also be a mid-day peak (11 AM to 1 PM). Travelers are advised to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight, especially during these peak times.

Student Ambassadors—wearing distinctive yellow shirts—are on the job at both Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport to give directions, answer questions and offer assistance to passengers.

Useful information about traveling through Reagan National and Dulles International Airports is posted on the Airports Authority website, Look for one-page information sheets that passengers may print ahead of time and bring along on their trip by clicking on either Dulles or Reagan National, then clicking the link “Travel Tips”. Travelers may follow @dcairports on Twitter for Reagan National and Dulles International news and updates.


At Reagan National Airport
• Some airline ticket counter and gate locations have changed since last Thanksgiving. Northwest Airlines completed its merger with Delta and moved from Terminal A to Delta’s location in Terminal B. Frontier and Air Canada both moved to Terminal A. Our newest airline, JetBlue, began service in Terminal A earlier this month.

• The Airports Authority completed a parking expansion project at Reagan National earlier this year. New levels were added to both daily parking garages with more than 1,400 additional new parking spaces. The Airport now has nearly 9,000 parking spaces.

At Dulles International Airport
• The AeroTrain underground airport train system began serving passengers in January. AeroTrain provides express, underground transit between the Main Terminal and the A, B and C-Gates with less than two minutes of travel time between stations. Passengers using the D-Gates and arriving international passengers continue to use mobile lounge shuttles.

• Arriving international passengers who are not connecting to other flights will clear U.S. Customs in the International Arrivals Building (IAB). The Airports Authority is currently working on a project to expand and improve this area. Earlier this month, new baggage claim devices opened in the IAB.

• Indoor pet relief areas opened at two post-security locations near Gate A-31 and across from Gate D-1 offering convenient locations for passengers traveling with service animals or pets to take their animals for a break.

New TSA Security Procedures
• The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for passenger screening at our nation’s airports. TSA recently launched a program called Secure Flight, which requires airlines to collect a passenger’s full name as it appears on government-issued ID, date of birth and gender.

• TSA has implemented some changes at security checkpoints at airports across the country. At Dulles this includes the integration of a new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening system, which is already in use at Reagan National. Also, some passengers may be selected for an enhanced physical pat down. These pat down searches are taking place at airports across the country.

• Passengers are encouraged to visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website,, to learn more about new security procedures in place at airports across the country. 
The Airports Authority offers these travel tips:


• Weather—both here and in other parts of the country—can significantly impact flight schedules. Call your airline's customer service number or visit the airline’s website to confirm your flight prior to coming to the airport, especially if severe weather is predicted.

• Consider printing your boarding pass at home or work before coming to the airport. Some airlines also offer electronic boarding passes. Check with your airline for further information.

• Place identification tags on both the inside and outside of your baggage.

• If you are traveling with a laptop computer, be sure to place a label on the computer itself and another label on the carrying case.

• Government-issued photo identification is required for all passengers over age 18.


To Reagan National Airport 
• A Metro stop on the blue and yellow lines is located at Reagan National Airport, making Metro a convenient way to get to the airport.

To Dulles International Airport
• Passengers may consider taking Metro to the West Falls Church Station on the orange line and connecting to the Washington Flyer Bus for express bus service to Dulles Airport. Cost is $10 one way or $18 for a round-trip ticket on the Washington Flyer Bus. Visit for a bus schedule.

• For Washington Flyer Taxi service to Dulles Airport, please call 703-572-TAXI (8294) to place a reservation.

To both airports
• Super Shuttle provides door-to-door shared-ride service to both airports. Call 1-800-BLUEVAN or for a fare quote or to book a reservation on the Super Shuttle.


At Reagan National Airport
• Reagan National has nearly 9,000 parking spaces.
• Real-time parking information is available online at or by calling 703-417-PARK to speak to a parking attendant 24/7.

At Dulles International Airport
• Dulles has 25,000 parking spaces.

• For parking information at Dulles, please call 703-572-4500 or visit

• The Airports Authority provides Parking Locator Cards in yellow boxes at the elevator areas in the garages and in the bus shelters in the economy lots. Take one to help you find your car when you return from your trip.

• PAY & GO is available at Dulles to avoid waiting in lines at the parking exits. Bring your parking ticket with you and use the Pay & Go Machines as you exit the Main Terminal on the lower level near the east and west exit doors. Once the ticket is paid at the Pay & Go machine in the Terminal, drivers exit at the Pay & Go lanes with the paid ticket without having to stop at the cashier booth.

• At Dulles, Valet Parking is available within the Hourly Parking Lot in front of the Main Terminal. No reservations are necessary. Call 703-572-4540 for more information.

Cell Phone Waiting Areas Offered at Both Airports
• When picking up an arriving passenger, wait in the Cell Phone Waiting Areas until your party calls to say they have arrived and are ready to be met at the curb. The Cell Phone Waiting Areas are free. Look for signs directing you to their locations when you arrive at the airport.


• Bag those liquids and gels! Remember these numbers: 3-1-1. Only liquids and gels in 3-ounce or smaller containers are permitted in carry-on luggage. All 3-ounce containers must fit in 1 clear sealed plastic bag that is no larger than 1-quart. Place the bag in the gray bin at the checkpoint for inspection.

• Have your boarding pass and government-issued photo ID available to present to the TSA officer.

• Leave gifts unwrapped. They may be opened for inspection.

• Place keys, loose change, cell phones, pagers, and other items from your pockets into your carry-on baggage prior to arriving at the checkpoint to avoid activating the metal detector. 

• Avoid wearing heavy jewelry, metal hair barrettes or clothing with metal snaps or buttons that may activate the alarm at screening checkpoints. If the metal detector alarms when you pass through, you will be required to undergo additional screening, which may include a physical pat down search.

• You must remove your shoes so consider wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off to expedite your trip through security screening.

• Carry-on baggage is limited to one carry-on bag plus one personal item. The airlines strictly enforce this rule. Personal items include laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases or camera cases. Laptops must be removed from most cases at the x-ray machine.

• Spare lithium batteries—like the ones found in cameras, lap-top computers, cell phones and radio-controlled toys—are prohibited in checked baggage. Spare batteries are allowed in carry-on luggage as long as they are in the original packaging, in separate protective cases or have tape across the battery’s contacts to isolate the terminals and prevent short-circuiting.

• If you are traveling with infants or young children, take them out of baby carriers and strollers and take them through the metal detector with you. Strollers and baby carriers go through the X-ray machine with your bags.

• Check for more information about screening procedures and a complete list of prohibited items.


• Carry medicine, cash, jewelry, electronic devices and other important and valuable items with you on the plane—not in checked luggage.

• If you leave your car at the airport, remove any valuables, including portable GPS devises.

• Carry your purse and wallet securely, and keep your luggage and carry-on items in your sight at all times. Under security procedures, unattended bags and other items will be confiscated and may be destroyed.


• The Airports Authority has added convenient dining options at both Reagan National and Dulles International. Sit down and enjoy a meal before your flight or order something to bring with you on the airplane. Shopping and Dining guides for both Airports are posted on our website.

For Dulles International, click here:

For Reagan National, click here:


About Reagan National Airport, please call 703-417-8000.

About Dulles International Airport, please call 703-572-2700.

About both airports, visit the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s website at or follow @dcairports on Twitter.

The Airports Authority wishes all of our passengers safe travels and a Happy Thanksgiving!