DC airports 101

9 Nov

Dulles mobile lounges are known for their space age look. © Ad Meskens

One great thing about living in DC is that we have three area airports, which gives you more chances for cheaper flights, but you should know the pros and cons of each airport before booking.

Reagan National Airport (which everyone refers to as simply “National”) is in Arlington and the closest of the three to downtown DC. It was built in response to Congressmen complaining that they needed an airport closer to DC. National is the only airport that is accessible by Metro—National Airport stop on the Blue and Yellow lines. Though this airport is generally preferred over Dulles because it’s smaller, there are few flights to the west coast and none internationally (with the exception of flights to Canada and the Bahamas), so flying from National isn’t always an option.

Dulles International Airport is perhaps best known for its “mobile lounges” which transport passengers to concourses and directly to planes. These are being largely phased out, however, thanks to the AeroTrain people mover, which opened this year and transports travelers much faster. Make sure to arrive at Dulles with plenty of time to spare—security lines can be out of control (though they’re working on improvements). While there’s no Metro stop near the airport, which is located in Dulles, Virginia, there is a shuttle from West Falls Church Metro on the Orange Line. It costs $10 one way and $18 round trip and takes about 20-30 minutes. If you’re driving, take the Dulles Airport Access Road from 495, which makes getting to the airport much easier.

Booking a flight from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) always sounds like a fine idea, but once you have to actually get to and from the airport, it’s another story.  BWI is much closer to Baltimore than Washington; it takes about an hour to get there from DC and longer if you’re coming from Virginia (If you live in Maryland, on the other hand, it might be the closest airport to you). Metro offers a BWI bus service that runs about every 40 minutes from the Greenbelt station on the Green Line.

Insider’s Tip: When you’re looking for flights online, enter airport code “WAS”, which searches all three airports at the same time.

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