It is almost as if the airplane knew that something special was happening around it. The Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority closed Gate 35X at Reagan National Airport Monday night, bringing to an end one of the worst passenger experiences in the region.
But the flight involved would not go quietly. The regional jet faced mechanical issues and returned to a now-closed gate briefly before ultimately departing to Albany.
The same aircraft served as the first arrival into the new terminal on Tuesday morning. It arrived on time and without issue, under beautiful blue skies. Just the way the airport hopes the terminal will operate for years to come.
The new commuter terminal at DCA
The new, 14-gate terminal is everything that 35X was not. It is spacious and bright. Big windows, power at many of the seats, and great views of the runway and DC beyond.
Keeping with the architecture of the main terminal today, the extension adds more of the “Jeffersonian Domes” to the building profile.
It also offers contact gates rather than a bus ride across the apron. And it is part of a ~$400 million overhaul of the airport that should make travel easier for passengers.
With the new gates opening American Airlines will shift its fleet mix at DCA. Historically the carrier operated a number of 50-seat jets into the airport, in part because of limited capacity at the gate. With the new space open the smallest will now be 70-seaters, all with a first class cabin on board.
The new concourse is part of Project Journey, a major upgrade for National. Still in progress is the other key aspect: rebuilding the TSA security areas and reconfiguring National Hall. When that portion completes later this summer two new, huge security checkpoints will provide access to all gates in terminals B and C as a contiguous space rather than each finger having its own checkpoint.
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