Tips Regarding Potential Airport Effects of U.S. Government Agency Budget Cuts

Published: April 16, 2013

Reagan National and Dulles International Beginning to See 
Limitied Passenger Impacts of 'Sequestration'


There has been much publicity about the possible effects of federal budget cuts called “Sequestration” on aviation – from increased wait times to reduced flight schedules.

Reagan National and Dulles International Airports will continue to operate regardless of possible federal reductions. Terminal facilities, parking, shuttle buses, rental cars, shops and restaurants also will continue to operate.

However, certain support systems staffed by federal agencies may be impacted by staffing changes as a result of Sequestration. Airport managers are working closely with federal agencies to determine specific impacts on federal services to provide the best available guidance to customers of Reagan National and Dulles International. 

The airports will continue to monitor for updates and present the latest information here. Below is a list of federal agencies with significant impacts on airport passenger travel and any effects to passengers as a result of Sequestration:

  • TSA (Transportation Security Administration): Operates and staffs security screening checkpoints for all departing flights, as well as checked bag screening. Airport officials will monitor TSA for changes in expected checkpoint wait times and other service advisories. A real-time display of wait times at Dulles is available in the terminal and on the airports' website.

            Dulles International Airport (IAD)
            Current Impact on Passengers: No noticeable impact to wait times at security checkpoints or baggage
            Peak Times at Checkpoints: Generally from 6:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m.-noon, 2:00 p.m.
            Potential Future Impact: Possible increased wait times at security checkpoints and delays screening

            Reagan National Airport (DCA)
            Current Impact on Passengers: Security checkpoint wait times have increased by several minutes at
            peak travel times, with no noticeable changes in off-peak wait times.
            Peak Times at Checkpoints: Generally from 5:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
            Potential Future Impacts: Possible increased wait times at security checkpoints and delays screening

  • FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): Operates and staffs the Air Traffic Control system throughout the United States, including the towers located at Reagan National and Dulles International. Airport officials will monitor FAA for updates on potential capacity reductions in the U.S. airspace that could result in canceled or delayed airline flight schedules.
    Potential Future Impact: Possible flight delays or cancellations because of changes in Air Traffic Control staffing
  • CBP (Customs and Border Protection): Operates and staffs U.S. ports of entry, including Dulles International Airport. Airport officials will monitor CBP for changes in staffing and provide guidance to passengers on arriving international flights.
    Current Impact on Passengers: Wait times in U.S. Customs and Border Protection have increased an average of 10-15 minutes throughout the day, with an average 30-minute increase in wait times during peak flight arrival times.

Until additional federal guidance is available, here are some general tips to improve your airport experience:

  • Before coming to the airport, check in to your flight online to ensure your flight is on schedule and avoid a line at the ticket counter. Pay any checked baggage fees online in advance.
  • Arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.
  • Real-time security wait times for Dulles are available on your smartphone and on displays near the checkpoint entrances.
  • When traveling internationally passengers participating in the CBP Global Entry Program can have expedited screening through self-checkout kiosks.
  • If you are picking up a passenger, confirm the flight’s on-time status directly with the airline’s website. Many airlines also provide flight status alerts that can be received via email or text.
  • If you park in airport lots or garages, take your ticket with you. Using pre-payment machines before reaching your car allows for a speedy exit through “Prepaid” lanes at Reagan National and “Pay and Go” lanes at Dulles.
  • Need help in the airport? Look for our Student Ambassadors wearing distinctive yellow shirts, or visit airport information counters staffed by Travelers Aid volunteers wearing blue blazers.