It might have been hard to fathom just a few months ago, but Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is now leading the pack in terms of aircraft arrivals and departures.
With 781 flights operating to and from the close-in airport for the week ending May 30, Reagan National stood ahead of Washington Dulles International Airport (751 flights) and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (596), according to data provided by FlightAware.
Reagan National’s flight totals were up from 439 during the same seven-day period in 2021 and way up from the scant 117 flights during the same period in 2020, when the pandemic’s initial blast brought travel to and from the airport largely to a standstill.
The return to higher flight levels at Reagan National began last September, when the Federal Aviation Administration again began requiring airlines to use their allotted takeoff and landing slots at the airport, or risk having them taken away and turned over to other airlines.
(So valued are its landing and takeoff rights, Reagan National is one of the few airports in the nation to be slot-controlled throughout much of the day; another is LaGuardia Airport, serving the New York City area.)
That return to the normal use-it-or-lose-it policy bumped Reagan National back up to the top of the local ranks. How the other two airports fared:
• At Dulles, the 751 flights during the seven-day period ending May 30 compared to 587 in 2021 and 267 in 2020.
• At BWI, the 596 flights compared to 559 and 296, respectively.
Dulles continues to be impacted due to a cutback in international service, which pre-pandemic had accounted for about one-third of flight passengers. While service is building back, it continues to lag the comeback of domestic passenger counts across the nation.
FlightAware’s totals are more current than those compiled by the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which at present only cover the first three months of the year.
According to those data, the 581,000 flights reported nationally in March were up 26 percent from 461,000 in 2021, but remained down 14 percent from the 676,000 flights reported in March 2019, the last pre-pandemic year.