Dulles Airport to be rebuilt after 60 years

Dulles Airport to be rebuilt after 60 years
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As Dulles International Airport emerges from the global pandemic and prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, the airport is laying the groundwork for an improvement it hopes will set the stage for its future.

Plans for the 14-gate concourse, announced earlier this year, are part of a broader modernization effort at Dulles, which has long served as the region’s international hub. Richard Golinowski, who has managed the airport through this process, has served in various capacities at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for more than two decades. He was appointed director of the airport last September.

Golinowski spoke with The Washington Post about Dulles’ recovery from the pandemic, future expansion plans and the benefits of extending the Silver Line. This interview has been lightly edited.

Q: How are things at Dulles these days and how close are you to pre-pandemic operations?

To: The airport is bustling with activity. It’s pretty phenomenal how many people are starting to come back and get on a plane to travel. We are about 85 percent of where we are in 2019. So we’re a bit ahead of our budget numbers right now. And it looks like going into 2023, we’ll probably be about 90 percent of where we were in 2019. About 95 percent of our concessions are open and making money, so we’re doing well.

Q: What causes the increase in flights? Are carriers coming back and restarting service or are new operators coming in?

To: We have a mix of both. We have some returning carriers. The most recent was Iberia’s trip to Madrid. They were with us a few years ago. However, our existing carriers are adding service. United added Amman, Jordan; Lome of Ethiopia added Togo; and Avianca added Costa Rica. Allegiant is another new carrier. Last year in Jacksonville, Fla. and started a home service to Austin. And hopefully, if all goes well, United will start serving Cape Town by November.

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Q: How long have you been running the show at Dulles?

To: It’s been about 11 months. I’ve been in power for about 27 years, so I knew a lot of people here at Dulles. But there are interesting places here at the airport that I never knew about. I’m going on a grand tour. Someone always shows me something new, so it’s pretty exciting.

Q: Dulles celebrates his 60th birthday this year. What do you all have planned?

To: The 60th anniversary will be in November. 17, so we build up to that. We will be holding several events that week, including some giveaways for staff and customers. We will prepare for the dinner through our Committee for Dulles organization. Arriving at the airport, you start seeing signs and banners announcing the 60th anniversary. We will involve not only government employees, but also all the people who work at the airport on a daily basis. We have about 14,000 people here at the airport supporting operations, and everyone is pretty excited.

Q: At 60, is Dulles starting to show his age?

To: Yes, it is. We are starting to see some problems in some of our older buildings and we are fixing them. Obviously, over the past few years we’ve tried to control our budget as much as we can, but now that things are starting to pick up, we’re starting to set aside some money for maintenance on some of our older infrastructure. .

Q: Big news came out of Dulles recently. Can you tell me more about the hall of 14 doors and what it means for travelers?

To: If you’re familiar with the C/D assemblies – that’s the United Conference – it was built as a “temporary facility” when it was built. Look, it’s been 20-30 years. It’s always been our intention to replace it, so this coming piece will be the first phase of the revitalization of Concourse East, Dulles Airport. It will be a 14-door addition that will be built right above the C train station. If you are familiar with this train station today, you have a long walk to the gate when entering and exiting the train. The new lounge will be built above that train station, so you will have direct access to the lounge via escalators and lifts.

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Q: How long will it take to complete?

To: We hope to do so by 2026.

Q: How does this fit into the larger master plan for Dulles?

To: After building this concourse, we will eventually expand it across the airfield and eventually replace Concourse C/D. We are currently going through a planning process to determine the best way to do this. If you think about it today, it would be a big hall parallel to the C/D hall we have today.

Q: How can the public participate in the planning process for Dulles?

To: We’ll have a series of public engagement venues or events where people can come and see what our initial plan is and what our long-term plan is. The first was held on April 27th, and we are looking to schedule another one or two of those public sessions. People can too visit the website and submit questions or concerns or comments about our master plan. It should also be noted that the last time we prepared a master plan was in 1985. So the current plan is 37 years old and needs to be updated.

Q: As the person responsible for running Dulles, do you hear from passengers about features or services they would like to see?

To: One thing we hear all the time is easy access to doors. So part of the master planning process is trying to figure out how to integrate [Transportation Security Administration] We’ve made the checkpoint combing fields for our entities a little better. Also, on return flights, we’ll look at how we can help Customs and Border Protection streamline their operations for people coming into the country.

Q: How will the opening of the second stage of the Silver Line affect Dulles?

To: It will be good for the airport. I think ultimately it will bring more workers to the airport than passengers. But that’s good. If we can get workers to the airport more easily – if we can get them on public transport rather than driving them on the roads every day – I think that will be good for the area.

Q: Why don’t more passengers use it? Is it because it’s such a long way from downtown DC?

To: I don’t think it’s a timing thing. I think it’s a baggage issue, frankly. People don’t want to carry luggage on the subway. They just want to drive or take an Uber, take a taxi, or have someone take them to the airport with their luggage.

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Q: There is some prejudice against Dulles in this area – it’s too hard to get to or people don’t like it. Why do you think that is?

To: This is a good question. I hope the opening of the Silver Line takes away some of that perception, it does [Dulles] more accessible But there’s no doubt that development along the corridor has really opened up opportunities for Dulles Airport and its expansion. So I think slowly but surely this way of thinking is leaving us.

Q: I know that right before the pandemic, Dulles was spinning after many years shakes hands with his future. At one point, National surpassed Dulles in passenger numbers. Do you think Dulles can regain that momentum?

To: The future is bright here. We have a lot of interest and carriers coming to the airport. We have a lot of demand for travel in the region and this is the place to do it. We have very good infrastructure to accommodate more flights and more passengers. Unlike National, which is somewhat landlocked and limited in size, we can handle it. They cannot grow. We can and are ready to grow.

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