Take a peek inside American’s new concourse at its Washington DC hub

Sep 4, 2020

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Any traveler who has flown on an American Airlines regional jet from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport‘s Gate 35X knows how terrible the experience is.

Flyers on what amounts to 14 “gates” are stuck in a cramped, basement holdroom while they wait to board a bus that will take them to their aircraft. 35X is widely derided and well known among Washingtonians as the worst gate at the airport.

Travelers will be able to say goodbye to Gate 35X in a little under a year. Washington National (DCA) operator the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is in the midst of its $1 billion Project Journey expansion that includes a new concourse for American’s regional flights that will replace the gate by next July.

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MWAA has shared a look inside work on the concourse whose rise has been watched closely by flyers and locals alike. Located on the northern end of Terminal B/C, the facility will sport 14 gates designed for Embraer E175-sized jets plus a new Admirals Club and local dining and shopping options.

Project Journey also includes new security checkpoints that will move Terminal B/C’s iconic National Hall — the hall overlooking the ramp with Cesar Pelli’s soaring Jeffersonian Domes — inside security. This will provide travelers with more dining and shopping options before their flights, as well as allow flyer connections between concourses without exiting and re-entering security.

While the concourse is due to open on time, work on the checkpoints is running several months late. Airport officials have said the coronavirus pandemic may allow them to accelerate work on the checkpoints enough that they open close to the original March date.

Related: The most dreaded gate at DCA is temporarily closing

COVID-19 did offer travelers one unexpected benefit: it temporarily closed 35X early amid the steep drop in flyer numbers in the pandemic. While the number of flights and passengers has risen in the ensuing months, the former remains at historically low levels.

Airlines plan to fly just over a quarter of the number of flights they flew a year ago — or an average of 105 per day — in September, according to Cirium schedules. American will only fly up to 75 daily departures compared to 247 departures in September 2019, and of those only 8% are on the 50-seat regional jets that formerly frequented Gate 35X.

Rules that ensure American uses more than 80% of its slots, or face losing them, are waived through the end of October, airline spokesperson Nichelle Barrett told TPG. The airline is evaluating its November schedule and has not made a decision on whether to resume pre-pandemic flight levels.

Related: Why I bike to my flights from Washington National Airport

Featured image by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images.

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