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Airport passenger counts expected to be at 80% of pre-COVID levels in 2022

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Passenger totals at Northern Virginia’s two main airports are expected to be back to more than 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, but are not currently anticipated to exceed the pre-COVID level before 2027.

That’s the takeaway from expectations embedded in the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s 2022 budget, which was approved by the body’s board of directors Dec. 15.

Combined, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport saw about 24.3 million enplaning passengers in 2019, a figure that cratered to 7.9 million in 2020 before rebounding to an estimated 12.2 million this year. (Final figures for 2021 will be available in February.)

The budget document anticipates a further rebound to 19.5 million passengers in 2022, then an average 4-percent increase each year through 2026. That would bring the passenger-enplanement total to 22.8 million that last year.

The budget proposal – which allocates $1.21 billion for aviation operations in the coming calendar year – anticipates that domestic travel at Washington Dulles International Airport will surpass its pre-COVID rates by 2026, but international travel at Dulles and overall travel at Reagan National will remain below 2019 figures until at least 2027.

While Reagan National saw a much longer period of depressed passenger counts following the arrival of COVID, the 2022 budget assumes total counts will be back to 80.6 percent of pre-COVID rates, slightly higher than the 80.4-percent assumption for Dulles.

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