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Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Traveler Update on Coronavirus

Dulles Airport Poised for Growth As Regional Economic Development Engine

Published: December 13, 2012

Future Expansion Could Support 70 Million Passengers per Year


Washington Dulles International Airport could someday accommodate up to 70 million passengers a year, more than double its current capacity, making the facility a “crown jewel” for economic development across the National Capital Region, officials told the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday.

Describing a master plan for the future of Dulles, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, Airports Authority executives outlined factors that position the facility for significant future growth that other East Coast airports cannot achieve because of limited land area and other constraints.

“We are sitting on the crown jewel at Dulles,” Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter said. “The combination of convenient global and regional access plus a healthy business environment make Dulles the land of opportunity.”

A master plan for the airport includes future development opportunities that could support up to 70 million passengers per year in airport activity. The airport complex also contains about 3,000 acres of land that could be developed for commercial use.

Dulles already has outperformed all other airports in the National Capital area, serving nearly 70 percent of the region’s international passengers.  Dulles also serves more total passengers each year than Reagan National or Baltimore Washington International airports.

“We’ve seen many new airlines begin service at Dulles International Airport in 2012,” said Chris Browne, Vice President and Dulles Airport Manager. “Emirates, AeroMexico, Porter Airlines and Sun Air all came to Dulles this year. Etihad Airways will begin daily service in 2013. There was also an increase in international routes served by United, the airline with the largest presence at the airport.”

Dulles can accommodate the latest-generation wide body aircraft, as demonstrated by service that includes Air France’s A380, the largest commercial jet; Lufthansa’s first 747-8 Intercontinental, the newest configuration of the Boeing 747, and Ethiopian Airline’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Dulles hosted the inaugural flights of these aircraft over the last 18 months.

The world-class passenger experience at Dulles includes several innovations recently introduced to passengers:

  • The first airport in the nation to display real-time security line waits in the terminal and online

  • A dedicated TSA Pre✓™ checkpoint and nearby enrollment information center

  • The state-of-the-art Aerotrain system, an underground train connecting airport concourse gates to the main terminal building

  • An expanded International Arrivals Building that doubled the floor space and capacity of the previous facility

To add to the international arrivals experience, Dulles employs a contingent of college-age “student ambassadors,” 90 percent of whom speak multiple languages, who greet and assist arriving travelers.

“Dulles continues to be poised for growth in air service, in the concourses, on the airfield and in development opportunities, especially as the Silver Line nears completion in 2018,” Browne said.

The Board also approved an agreement to the Authority’s lease to occupy, develop and improve Reagan National and Dulles International. The lease was originally established under the 1986 law that created the Airports Authority. Wednesday’s amendment to the 80-year lease was proposed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in response to the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act and the recent Department of Transportation Inspector General’s audit.

Under the terms of the amendment, the lease’s definition of “airport purposes” was broadened to include any “business or activity not inconsistent with the needs of aviation that has been approved by the Secretary.” Under the terms of the original lease, use of the property is restricted to the purposes defined in the document.

Airports Authority Board Chairman Michael A. Curto said the amendment “will provide a tremendous amount of flexibility” for future growth on airport property at Dulles.

The amendment also requires MWAA to adopt, maintain and adhere to policies and procedures in the areas of procurement and contracting, human resources, budget, travel, ethics, governance and transparency.

Potter noted that the pace of preparation for additional travelers at Dulles and Reagan National has picked up as the holiday travel season and presidential inauguration approach, adding that airport staff members “will be ready for the holidays and inaugural events – as well as winter weather.”

Membership on the Airports Authority Board continues to change as several directors’ six-year terms expire. Anthony Griffin, a 23-year veteran of Fairfax County, Va., government, joined the Board Wednesday.  Curto welcomed Griffin and recognized the service of departing Director H. R. Crawford, who joined the Board in 2002 and was its chairman in 2008 and 2009.

In other business, the Board approved a clarification regarding hotel stays for its new authority-wide travel policy and passed a 2013 operating budget. Chairman Curto’s appointment of Directors Caren Merrick, Earl Adams Jr. and Barbara Lang to a newly formed Ethics Review Committee was also approved by members. Materials presented in Wednesday’s meetings are posted on the MWAA website.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia to manage and operate 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 taxpayer money is 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.