Washington Dulles International Airport

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Washington Dulles International Airport
Logo of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.svg
Washington Dulles International Airport at Dusk.jpg
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorMetropolitan Washington Airports Authority
ServesWashington metropolitan area
LocationDulles, Virginia, U.S.
Hub forUnited Airlines
Elevation AMSL313 ft / 95 m
Coordinates38°56′40″N 077°27′21″W / 38.94444°N 77.45583°W / 38.94444; -77.45583Coordinates: 38°56′40″N 077°27′21″W / 38.94444°N 77.45583°W / 38.94444; -77.45583
IAD is located in Virginia
Location in Virginia
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
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Washington Dulles International Airport
Logo of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.svg
Washington Dulles International Airport at Dusk.jpg
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorMetropolitan Washington Airports Authority
ServesWashington metropolitan area
LocationDulles, Virginia, U.S.
Hub forUnited Airlines
Elevation AMSL313 ft / 95 m
Coordinates38°56′40″N 077°27′21″W / 38.94444°N 77.45583°W / 38.94444; -77.45583Coordinates: 38°56′40″N 077°27′21″W / 38.94444°N 77.45583°W / 38.94444; -77.45583
IAD is located in Virginia
Location in Virginia
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA: IADICAO: KIADFAA LID: IAD) is a public airport in Dulles, Virginia, 26 miles (42 km) west of downtown Washington, D.C.[2] The airport serves the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia metropolitan area centered on the District of Columbia. It is named after John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State in the Eisenhower Administration. The Dulles main terminal is a well-known landmark designed by Eero Saarinen. Operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Dulles Airport occupies 11,830 acres (47.9 km2)[3] straddling the border of Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia,[1] within the unincorporated communities of Chantilly and Dulles.

Washington Dulles Airport is the busiest airport in the Washington metropolitan area, and second busiest airport in the larger Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area (after BWI Airport) with over 22 million passengers a year.[4][5] With nearly all of the international passenger traffic in the Washington-Baltimore region, Dulles is the busiest international airport in the Northeast outside of the New York metropolitan area.[6] On a typical day, more than 60,000 passengers pass through Washington Dulles to and from more than 125 destinations around the world.[4][7]



At the end of World War II, growth in aviation and in the Washington metropolitan area led Congress to pass the Washington Airport Act of 1950, providing federal backing for a second airport. After preliminary proposals failed, including one to establish an international airport at what is now Burke Lake Park, the current site was selected by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. As a result of the selection, the unincorporated community of Willard, which once stood in the airport's current footprint, was demolished.[8]

Design and original construction[edit]

View of IAD from an airplane

The civil engineering firm Ammann and Whitney was named lead contractor. The airport was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on November 17, 1962. Its original name, Dulles International Airport, was changed in 1984 to Washington Dulles International Airport.[9] The main terminal was designed in 1958 by famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and it is highly regarded for its graceful beauty, suggestive of flight. In the 1990s, the main terminal at Dulles was reconfigured to allow more space between the front of the building and the ticket counters. Additions at both ends of the main terminal more than doubled the structure's length. The original terminal at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan was modeled after the Saarinen terminal at Dulles.

The design included a landscaped man-made lake to collect rainwater, a low-rise hotel, and a row of office buildings along the north side of the main parking lot. The design also included a two-level road in front of the terminal to separate arrival and departure traffic and a federally owned limited access highway connecting the terminal to the Capital Beltway (I-495) about 17 miles (27 km) to the east. (Eventually, the highway system grew to include a parallel toll road to handle commuter traffic and an extension to connect to I-66). The access road had a wide median strip to allow the construction of a passenger rail line, which will be in the form of an extension of the Washington Metro and is expected to be completed in 2018.

Notable operations and milestones[edit]

Air France operates daily, year-round flights on the Airbus A380 from Washington-Dulles to Paris out of gate A20/A22.

Planned development[edit]

Main Terminal Station of Aerotrain

By the 1980s, the original design, which had mobile lounges meet each plane, was no longer well-suited to Dulles' role as a hub airport. Instead, midfield concourses were added to allow passengers to walk between connecting flights without visiting the main terminal. Mobile lounges were still used for international flights and to transport passengers between the midfield concourses and the main terminal. An underground tunnel (consisting of a passenger walkway and moving sidewalks) which links the main terminal and concourse B was opened in 2004.[19] The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) began a renovation program for the airport including a new security mezzanine with more room for lines.[20]

A new train system, dubbed AeroTrain and developed by Mitsubishi, began in 2010 to transport passengers between the concourses and the main terminal.[21] The system, which uses rubber tires and travels along a fixed underground guideway,[21] is similar to the people mover systems at Singapore Changi Airport,[21] Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Denver International Airport. The train is intended to replace the mobile lounges, which many passengers found crowded and inconvenient. The initial phase includes the main terminal station, a permanent Concourse A station, a permanent Concourse B station, a permanent midfield concourse station (with access to the current temporary C concourse via a tunnel with moving walkways), and a maintenance facility.[21] Mobile lounges continue to service the D Concourse from both the main terminal and the A Concourse. Mobile lounges will continue to transport international arrivals to the IAB facility. Dulles has stated that the wait time for a train does not exceed four minutes, compared to the average 15-minute wait and travel time for mobile lounges.

Under the development plan, future phases would see the addition of several new midfield concourses and a new south terminal.[22] A fourth runway (parallel to the existing runways 1 and 19 L&R) opened in 2008,[23] and development plans include a fifth runway to parallel the existing runway 12–30.[24] An expansion of the B concourse, used by many low cost airlines as well as international arrivals, has been completed, and the Midfield Concourses C and D mainly house United Airlines, and will eventually be knocked down to make room for a more ergonomic building. Because Concourses C and D are temporary concourses, the only way to get to those concourses is via moving walkway from the Concourse C station which is built in the location of the future gates and Concourse D by mobile lounge from the main terminal.[25]


United Airlines operates one of its East Coast hubs at Dulles Airport.

United Airlines maintains one of two East Coast hubs at Dulles which handled 56.7% of scheduled air carrier passengers at the airport.[26] JetBlue handled 6.8% of scheduled air carrier passengers. American Airlines is the airport's third largest carrier in tickets sold and handled: 5.4%.[26] In addition, 24 foreign carriers have service in and out of Washington Dulles. On a typical day, Dulles averages 1,000 to 1,200 flight operations.[27] Dulles International served 22.6 million passengers in 2012, a 2.8% decrease over 2011. However, international passenger traffic has increased by 2.0% during the same time.[28] Additional international service is commencing service at Washington Dulles. With 43 weekly flights, Dulles is now the second largest United States gateway to the Middle East. Even before the United States economic recession started, international passengers have continued to grow, which prompted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to expand the international arrivals building to handle 2,400 passengers per hour.

Busiest International Routes from Dulles (2013)[29]
1Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London (Heathrow), United Kingdom902,878British Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic
2Flag of Germany.svg Frankfurt, Germany595,546Lufthansa, United
3Flag of France.svg Paris (Charles de Gaulle), France446,332Air France, United
4Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg Dubai, United Arab Emirates347,247Emirates, United
5Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo (Narita), Japan279,915All Nippon Airways, United
6Flag of the Netherlands.svg Amsterdam, Netherlands267,681KLM, United
7Flag of El Salvador.svg San Salvador, El Salvador267,061Avianca El Salvador, United
8Flag of Germany.svg Munich, Germany241,541Lufthansa, United
9Flag of Belgium.svg Brussels, Belgium195,476Brussels Airlines, United
10Flag of Qatar.svg Doha, Qatar187,874Qatar Airways
Busiest Domestic Routes from Dulles (February 2013 - January 2014)[30]
1Los Angeles, California612,000American, United, Virgin America
2San Francisco, California573,000United, Virgin America
3Denver, Colorado470,000Southwest, United
4Atlanta, Georgia323,000Delta, United
5Boston, Massachusetts269,000JetBlue, United
6Chicago (O'Hare), Illinois265,000United
7Charlotte, North Carolina230,000United, US Airways
8Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas217,000American, United
9Orlando, Florida198,000JetBlue, United
10Chicago (Midway), Illinois185,000Southwest

Traffic by calendar year[4]

Largest Carriers at Dulles (April 2012–March 2013)[31]
1United Airlines9,051,707
2ExpressJet Airlines (Delta Connection, United Express)2,302,142
3Mesa Airlines (United Express, US Airways Express)1,151,729
4American Airlines752,216
5Southwest Airlines613,030
6Trans States Airlines (United Express)562,322
7JetBlue Airways544,071
8Delta Air Lines513,033
9Virgin America455,131
YearPassengersChange from
previous year
Aircraft operationsCargo


A plane mate

The airport's terminal complex consists of a main terminal and two midfield terminal buildings: Concourses A/B and C/D. The entire terminal complex has 123 gates and 16 hardstand locations[33] from which passengers can board or disembark using the airport's plane mate vehicles.[3]

Conceived in early planning sessions in 1959, Dulles is one of the few remaining airports to use the mobile lounge (also known as "plane mates" or "people movers") for boarding and disembarkation from aircraft, and to transfer passengers between the midfield concourses and to and from the main terminal building. They have all been given names based on the postal abbreviations of 50 states, e.g.: VA, MD, AK.[34]

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has begun to gradually phase out the mobile lounge system for inter-terminal passenger movements in favor of the AeroTrain, an underground people mover which currently operates to Concourses A, B and C, and a pedestrian walkway system (now in service to concourse A/B). The mobile lounges are still used to transport passengers directly from the main terminal to Concourse D. Plane mates also remain in use to disembark international passengers and carry them to the International Arrivals Building, as well as to convey passengers to and from aircraft on hard stand (i.e., those parked remotely on the apron without access to jet bridges).[35][36]

Main terminal[edit]

The terminal ceiling is suspended in a catenary curve above the luggage check-in area.

The main terminal (which houses ticketing, baggage claim, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Z gates, and other support facilities) was recognized by the American Institute of Architects in 1966 for its design concept; its roof is a suspended catenary providing a wide enclosed area unimpeded by any columns. It houses ticketing, baggage claim, and information facilities, as well as the International Arrivals Building for passenger processing.

The main terminal was extended in 1996 to 1,240 feet (380 m)—Saarinen's original design length—which was slightly more than double its originally constructed length of 600 feet (180 m).[33] In addition, an extension for international arrivals was added to the west of the main terminal in 1991. On September 22, 2009, an expansion of the international arrivals building opened which includes a 41,400 square feet (3,850 m2) arrival hall for customs and immigration processing. The new facility has the capacity to process 2,400 arriving passengers per hour.[37]

In September 2009, a 121,700 square feet (11,310 m2) central Transportation Security Administration checkpoint was added on a new security mezzanine level of the main terminal. This checkpoint replaced previous checkpoints located behind the ticketing areas.[38] A separate security checkpoint is available on the baggage claim level. Both security checkpoints connect to the new AeroTrain, which links the main terminal with the A, B, and C concourses.

There are two sets of gates in the main terminal: waiting areas for airlines which lack permanent physical gates and therefore use plane mates to reach planes parked at 16 hard-stand locations, which are referred to as the "H" Gates, and the "Z" Gates (with 4 gates), which provide service for US Airways.

Midfield terminals[edit]

Concourse B AeroTrain station

There are two midfield terminal buildings at Washington Dulles: one contains the A and B midfield concourses, the other the C and D midfield concourses.

Concourse A (which has 47 gates) consists of a permanent ground level set of gates designed for small planes such as regional jets and several former B concourse gates.[39] Concourse B (which has 28 gates) is the first of the permanent elevated midfield concourses. Originally constructed in 1998 and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, the B concourse contained 20 gates. In 2003, 4 additional gates were added to concourse B, followed by a 15-gate expansion in 2008.[40] It is connected to the main terminal by an underground walkway in addition to the AeroTrain.

The C and D concourses (with each concourse containing 22 gates), completed in 1983 and designed by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum,[41] were originally designed as a temporary base for United Airlines, which began hub operations at the airport in 1985.[42] The C/D concourses were given a face lift in 2006 which included light fixture upgrades, new paint finishes, new ceiling grids and tiles, heating and air conditioning replacement, and complete restroom renovations.[42] This building also has a dedicated Federal Inspection Station ("FIS") for arriving United and certain Star Alliance-member airlines' international passengers to clear U.S. Customs prior to connecting to subsequent flights. Since this immigration facility is only for connecting passengers on United and its partners' flights, it has shorter lines and passengers don't have to clear security at the massive TSA checkpoint in the main terminal.

A new and permanent C/D concourse (also called "Tier 2") is planned as part of the D2 Dulles Development Project. The new building is to include a three-level structure with 44 airline gates and similar amenities to Concourse B.[42] The concourse plan includes a dedicated mezzanine corridor with moving sidewalks to serve international passengers. The design and construction of the new C/D concourse has not been scheduled.[42]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


AeroméxicoMexico CityA
Air ChinaBeijing-Capital (begins June 10, 2014)[43]TBD
Air FranceParis–Charles de GaulleA
All Nippon AirwaysTokyo–NaritaB
American AirlinesDallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, MiamiB
Austrian Airlines
operated by Tyrolean Airways
AviancaBogotá, La Paz, San SalvadorA, B
British AirwaysLondon–HeathrowB
Brussels AirlinesBrusselsB
Cayman AirwaysSeasonal: Grand CaymanB
Copa AirlinesPanama CityA
Delta Air LinesAtlanta
Seasonal: Cancún, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Delta ConnectionAtlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardiaB
Ethiopian AirlinesAddis AbabaA
Etihad AirwaysAbu DhabiA
Frontier Airlines[44]Atlanta (begins August 19, 2014), Charlotte (begins August 20, 2014), Chicago-O'Hare (begins September 15, 2014), Cincinnati (begins September 8, 2014), Detroit (begins September 8, 2014), Fort Lauderdale (begins September 9, 2014), Fort Myers (begins September 9, 2014), Las Vegas (begins September 8, 2014), Memphis (begins September 8, 2014), Minneapolis–St. Paul (begins August 20, 2014), Orlando (begins August 19, 2014), St. Augustine (begins September 8, 2014), St. Louis (begins September 8, 2014), Tampa (begins August 19, 2014)Z
IcelandairSeasonal: Reykjavík–KeflavíkA
JetBlue AirwaysBoston, Long Beach (ends September 2, 2014),[45] New York–JFK
Seasonal: Oakland (ends June 16, 2014)[45]
Korean AirSeoul–IncheonA
LufthansaFrankfurt, MunichB
Porter AirlinesToronto–Billy BishopA
Qatar AirwaysDohaB
SaudiaJeddah, RiyadhA
Scandinavian AirlinesCopenhagenB
South African AirwaysDakar, JohannesburgB
Southwest AirlinesChicago–Midway, DenverB
Sun Air InternationalHagerstown, LancasterB
Turkish AirlinesIstanbul–AtatürkB
United AirlinesAmsterdam, Aruba, Bahrain, Beijing–Capital, Boston, Brussels, Cancún, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Doha, Dubai-International, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Grand Cayman, Guatemala City, Honolulu, Houston–Intercontinental, Kuwait, Las Vegas, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Manchester (UK), Mexico City, Munich, New Orleans, Orlando, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Raleigh/Durham, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão (ends June 5, 2014)[citation needed], Rome–Fiumicino, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San José de Costa Rica, San Juan, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Tampa, Tokyo–Narita, Zürich
Seasonal: Austin, Hartford, Madrid (begins June 5, 2014), Montego Bay, Punta Cana, Vancouver
C, D
United ExpressAlbany (NY), Allentown/Bethlehem, Atlanta, Altoona, Austin, Beckley, Binghamton (ends June 4, 2014), Boston, Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Charlottesville, Chicago–O'Hare, Cincinnati, Clarksburg, Cleveland, Colorado Springs (ends September 18, 2014), Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Dallas/Fort Worth, Dayton, Detroit, Fayetteville (NC), Grand Rapids, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (FL), Johnstown, Kansas City, Knoxville, Lewisburg (WV), Louisville, Miami (ends August 17, 2014), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montréal–Trudeau, Morgantown, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Rochester (NY), St. Louis, San Antonio, Savannah, Shenandoah Valley, State College, Syracuse, Toronto–Pearson, Tulsa
Seasonal: Halifax, Myrtle Beach, Nassau (begins June 5, 2014),[46] Québec City
A, C, & D
US Airways ExpressCharlotteZ
Virgin AmericaLos Angeles, San FranciscoB
Virgin AtlanticLondon-HeathrowA

Airline lounges[edit]

Nonstop domestic and nonstop or direct international service from Dulles
Air France operates daily Airbus A380 flights to Charles de Gaulle Airport from gate A20/A22, as seen in the photo. Along with United Airlines, the route carries 480,000 passengers a year.

Since many major domestic and international airlines have a large presence at Washington Dulles, there are several airline lounges in active operation there.


FedEx ExpressHarrisburg, Indianapolis, Memphis, Newark
FedEx Feeder
operated by Mountain Air Cargo
UPS AirlinesLouisville, Richmond

Ground transportation[edit]


Dulles is accessible via the Dulles Access Road/Dulles Greenway (State Route 267) and State Route 28. The Dulles Airport Access Highway (DAAH) is a toll-free, limited access, highway owned by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to facilitate car access to Dulles from the Washington Capital Beltway and Interstate 66.[50] After it opened, non-airport traffic between Washington and Reston became so heavy that a parallel set of toll lanes were added on the same right-of-way to accommodate non-airport traffic (Dulles Toll Road). However, the airport-only lanes are both less congested as well as toll-free. As of November 1, 2008, MWAA assumed responsibility from the Virginia Department of Transportation both for operating the Dulles Toll Road and for the construction of a rapid transit rail line down its median. Route 28, which runs north–south along the eastern edge of the airport, has been upgraded to a limited access highway, with the interchanges financed through a property tax surcharge on nearby business properties. The Dulles Toll Road has been extended to the west to Leesburg as the Dulles Greenway.

Mass transportation[edit]

Loudoun County Transit provides a bus service which runs from the Dulles Town Center shopping center, to the airport, then to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum.

Passengers connecting to the Shenandoah Valley can use the Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus, which connects to the Vienna and Rosslyn Metro station. Taxis and SuperShuttle ride sharing vans are also available.

Fairfax Connector service to Dulles is through via route 981; from Tysons Corner to Reston then to Herndon.

As of 2012, the only Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority service to Dulles is the "Express" 5A Metrobus route. The 5A express bus makes two stops on its way from the airport to downtown Washington. Stops include the Herndon–Monroe park & ride lot in Herndon and the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington. It terminates at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station in Southwest DC. Both metro stations can be accessed by the Orange and Blue lines, while the latter can also be accessed by the Yellow and Green lines. The 950 Fairfax Connector bus brings passengers from Reston to the Herndon–Monroe transfer station, where they can switch to the 5A bus to the airport. The RIBS 2 Fairfax Connector bus also connects Reston passengers to the Herndon–Monroe transfer point. An alternative (but slightly more expensive)[51] way of reaching Dulles is the Washington Flyer Coach bus service that operates roughly every thirty minutes between the airport and the West Falls Church Metro station.[52]


Construction is now underway to connect the airport to Washington via the Silver Line of the Washington Metro.[53] While initial plans called for completion of the station in 2016, officials now expect the construction to be completed in 2018.[54][55]

Accidents and incidents[edit]


Control Tower view of IAD in 1961.


In popular culture[edit]

Dulles has been the backdrop for many Washington-based movies, starting shortly after the airport opened with the 1964 film Seven Days in May.

Dulles airport's terminal exterior

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Master Record for IAD (Form 5010 PDF)
  2. ^ "Dulles International Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
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  7. ^ "Air Service Maps – IAD". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved December 4, 2010. 
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  19. ^ "Passenger Walkway to Concourses A and B Fact Sheet" (PDF). Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Dulles Development: Main Terminal Improvement Fact Sheet" (PDF). Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Aerotrain – Dulles Train System Fact Sheet" (PDF). Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  22. ^ Weiss, Eric M. (August 19, 2008). "Dulles Updates Its People Movers". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
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External links[edit]