Leaders of the agency running Northern Virginia’s two major airports remain upbeat, but the body’s monthly meeting may have, unintentionally, provided a cautionary tale that a full rebound of air travel is not a sure bet.
The June 15 meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reverted to a “virtual” affair after several months of in-person gatherings, another reminder that the ebb and flow of COVID and its ancillary strains remain on the mind of business leaders everywhere.
The return of business travel has lagged the successful return of leisure travel, which only took a few months off at the start of the pandemic before intrepid travelers decided to get back in the skies. But because business travel brings in a disproportionate share of revenue and profits to many airlines, any shakiness of its return could prove problematic for the industry going forward.
Summer isn’t much of a business-travel period anyway, but it is prime time for leisure travelers.
“The summer season is off to a great start,” said Jack Potter, CEO of the airports authority, which runs Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Chryssa Westerlund, the authority’s executive vice president and chief revenue officer, added some meat to those bones, reporting 2.1 million passengers at Reagan National in April (above pre-pandemic levels) and 1.8 million at Dulles (91% of pre-pandemic domestic passengers and 88% of all passengers, including international-bound traffic).
“Both airports are exceeding expectations,” Westerlund said.