The arrival of American Airlines Flight 5518 from Albany, N.Y., the morning of April 20 marked the inauguration of the new 14-gate regional-jet concourse at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The new facility is “fantastic news for our customers,” said American Airlines president Robert Isom, who said it would provide a “convenient, accessible, world-class product” for its travelers.
The inaugural flight is similar to all those that will follow. The CRJ700 jet, operated for American by PSA Airlines, spent 74 minutes in the air covering the 318 miles connecting it from New York’s capital to the nation’s capital. In what perhaps is a good sign, it arrived 25 minutes early.
The new 225,000-square-foot terminal was designed (before the pandemic) to provide a better experience for travelers using regional jets carrying passengers on behalf of American Airlines, the dominant carrier at the airport. Previously, passengers had to be bused to their flights out of what Isom termed “the dreaded Gate 35X.”
Work on the project continued through the pandemic, and with passenger counts on the rebound (though still lagging) at Reagan National, it is expected the terminal could soon see a healthy share of passengers.
The new facility represents one of the largest projects at the airport since Terminals B/C opened nearly a quarter-century ago.
The opening of the terminal represents “the culmination of years of work by thousands of employees who overcame numerous challenges and the seismic changes of a global pandemic to deliver a world-class passenger experience,” said John Potter, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The new terminal is part of a broader, billion-dollar expansion effort dubbed “Project Journey,” which also includes reconfiguration of passenger-screening areas and other improvements.
The new concourse, which includes Gates 46-59, features exposed steel arches and columns, expansive glass walls and skylights that complement the Jeffersonian domes in the existing terminal, aimed at giving travelers large, open, brightly lit gate areas with panoramic views of the iconic Washington skyline, airport officials said.
The terminal has seating for 850 passengers plus 14,000 square feet of concession areas, whose concessionaires will be setting up shop over the coming months. There also are public restrooms, moving walkways, an indoor pet-relief area and new baggage-handling system.
For information on the effort, see the Website at flyreagan.com/dca/projectjourney.