A chance encounter this weekend with an old buckaroo who can be counted on to provide some insight into all things aviation led to my question to him:
“Reagan National Airport eventually is going to get back on track, right? Any ideas when, and how?”
After all, DCA – as it’s known in the biz – has been taking a beating during the pandemic. With very little connecting traffic, and very little reason for people to come to the D.C. region at the moment, its traffic has been down upwards of 80 percent, although data from recent weeks is showing some improvement.
This individual didn’t predict a time frame for the revival, but noted that, eventually, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will have to reinstate its rule that airlines either use all the takeoff and landing slots they control at the airport, or lose them. The use-it-or-lose-it rules have been put aside during the pandemic, as they have at other slot-controlled airports around the world, be they up in New York City or in London.
Once airlines again **have** to use their slots, they’ll probably start offering low-low-low rates to start to help rebuild traffic (while also probably using the smallest aircraft they can find to minimize costs). And, eventually, passenger counts will come back and life will return to normal. Or at least normal-ish.
Meanwhile, DCA this month inaugurates its spanking-brand-new pier for American Airlines’ regional-jet operation. It will not involve the hullabaloo of the 1997 opening of then-new airport Terminal B/C, given the current situation, but it is something still worth celebrating.
(As an aside, I was invited to the gala opening dinner inside the main terminal back in 1997. But my place in the pecking order was obvious, as I think we were seated at the very last table, as far from the dais as it was possible to be. Fair enough – as they say at Oscar time, it’s nice just to be nominated …)
- Scott McCaffrey