Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Aerial view of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerUnited States federal government
OperatorMetropolitan Washington Airports Authority
ServesWashington, D.C. metropolitan area
LocationArlington, Virginia, United States
OpenedJune 16, 1941
(82 years ago)
 (1941-06-16) [1]
Hub forAmerican Airlines
Elevation AMSL15 ft / 5 m
Coordinates38°51′8″N 77°2′16″W / 38.85222°N 77.03778°W / 38.85222; -77.03778
A map with a grid overlay showing the terminals runways and other structures of the airport.
FAA's diagram of the airport
Direction Length Surface
ft m
01/19 7,169 2,185 Asphalt
04/22 5,000 1,524 Asphalt
15/33 5,204 1,586 Asphalt
Statistics (2022)
Aircraft operations293,674
Total passengers23,961,442
Source: Federal Aviation Administration,[2] Passenger traffic[3]
Washington National Airport Terminal
and South Hangar Line
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located in Virginia
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located in the United States
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
LocationThomas Ave.
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Area861 acres (348 ha)[5][6]
Built1941 (1941), 82 years ago
Architectural styleModern
NRHP reference No.97001111[4]
VLR No.000-0045
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 12, 1997
Designated VLRJune 27, 1995[7]

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA, ICAO: KDCA, FAA LID: DCA), referred to colloquially as National Airport, Reagan, Reagan National, or simply DCA, is an airport in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is the smaller of two airports owned by the federal government and operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) that serve the Washington metropolitan area around Washington, D.C.; the larger is Dulles International Airport about 25 miles (40 km) to the west in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.[2][8] The airport is 5 miles (8.0 km) from downtown Washington, D.C.

The airport opened in 1941 and was originally named Washington National Airport. Part of the original terminal is still in use as Terminal 1. A larger second terminal, now known as Terminal 2, opened in 1997. In 1998, Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, a bill renaming it Ronald Reagan National Airport in honor of President Ronald Reagan.[9][10][11][12] MWAA operates the airport with close oversight by the federal government due to its proximity to the national capital.

Long distance flights to and from the airport are limited by a perimeter rule which generally prohibits flights longer than 1,250 statute miles (2,010 km) in any direction nonstop, in an effort to send coast-to-coast and overseas traffic to Dulles International Airport, though there are 40 slot exemptions to this rule. Planes are required to take unusually complicated paths to avoid restricted and prohibited airspace above sensitive landmarks, government buildings, and military installations in and around Washington, D.C.,[13] and comply with some of the tightest noise restrictions in the country.[14]

Reagan National currently serves 91 nonstop destinations and is a hub for American Airlines. It has no immigration and customs facilities. Therefore, it is used predominantly for domestic flights with the only international flights being to and from those with U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities, including major airports in Canada and some destinations in the Caribbean. International passenger flights to and from the Washington metropolitan area typically utilize Washington Dulles International Airport or Baltimore/Washington International Airport.

The airport served 24.5 million passengers in 2022, the most of any of the three airports and a new passenger record for the airport.[15] The airport's main runway is the busiest in the nation.[16]


20th century

The first airport in the area was Arlington's Hoover Field, which opened in 1926.[17] Near the present site of The Pentagon, its single runway was crossed by a street; guards had to stop automobile traffic during takeoffs and landings. The following year, in 1927, Washington Airport, another privately operated field, began service next door.[1] In 1930, the Great Depression led the two terminals to merge to form Washington-Hoover Airport. Bordered on the east by U.S. Route 1, with its accompanying high-tension electrical wires, and obstructed by a high smokestack on one approach and a dump nearby, the field was inadequate.[18]

1935 drawing of the proposed site for the new airport, then known as Municipal Air Port.
The airport's main terminal in July 1941
The airport's terminal in July 1941
The airport's terminal as seen from the airfield in 1944
The airport in 1970
View of National Mall at dusk while taking off from National Airport in January 2020
View of National Mall and Downtown Washington, D.C. during the day while taking off in March 2016.
The airport's control tower and Terminal 2 in July 2012

The need for a better airport was acknowledged in 37 studies conducted between 1926 and 1938,[1] but a statute prohibited federal development of airports. When Congress lifted the prohibition in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a recess appropriation of $15 million to build National Airport by reallocating funds from other purposes. Construction of Washington National Airport began in 1940–1941 by a company led by John McShain. Congress challenged the legality of FDR's recess appropriation, but construction of the new airport continued.[19]

The airport is located southwest of Washington, D.C. in the Crystal City section of Arlington County, Virginia adjacent to National Landing. The western part of the airport was once within a large Virginia plantation, a remnant of which is now inside a historic site near the airport's Metrorail station.[20] The eastern part of the airport was built in the District of Columbia on and near mudflats in the tidal Potomac River near Gravelly Point, about 4 statute miles (6.4 km) from the United States Capitol, using landfill dredged from the Potomac River.

The airport opened June 16, 1941, just before U.S. entry into World War II.[1] The public was entertained by displays of wartime equipment including a captured Japanese Zero war prize flown in with U.S. Navy colors.[21] In 1945 Congress passed a law that established the airport was legally within Virginia, mainly for liquor sales taxation purposes, but under the jurisdiction of the federal government.[1] On July 1 of that year the airport's weather station became the official point for D.C. weather observations and records by the National Weather Service, in Washington, D.C.[22]

Until 1946, nonstop airline flights did not reach beyond New York City, Detroit, Cincinnati, Memphis, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. In 1946, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami were added; nonstops reached Denver in 1951 and Los Angeles in 1954. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 316 weekday departures: 95 Eastern (plus six per week to/from South America), 77 American, 61 Capital, 23 National, 17 TWA, 10 United, 10 Delta, 6 Allegheny, 6 Braniff, 5 Piedmont, 3 Northeast and 3 Northwest. Jet flights began in April 1966 (727-200s were not allowed until 1970).[23] In 1974 the airport's key carriers were Eastern (20 destinations), United (14 destinations after subsuming Capital) and Allegheny (11 destinations).[24]

The grooving of runway 18–36 to improve traction when wet, in March 1967, was the first at a civil airport in the United States.[25]

Service to the airport's Metro station began in 1977.[26]

The Washington National Airport Terminal and South Hangar Line were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.[4][27]

Expansion and restrictions

The runway layout has changed little since the 1956 closure of the east–west runway at the south end of the field. Changes to the terminal complex over the years include:

Despite the expansions, efforts have been made to restrict the growth of the airport. The advent of jets and traffic growth led Congress to pass the Washington Airport Act of 1950, which led to the opening of Dulles International Airport in 1962. To reduce congestion and drive traffic to alternative airports, the FAA imposed perimeter restrictions on National when jets arrived in 1966, and landing slot at DCA and four other high-density airports in 1969.[30]

The airport originally had no perimeter rule; from 1954 to 1960, piston-engine airliners flew nonstop to California.[31][32] Scheduled jet airliners were not allowed until April 1966, and concerns about aviation noise led to noise restrictions even before jet service began in 1966.

The perimeter rule was implemented in January 1966 as a voluntary agreement by airlines, to get permission to use short-haul jets at National. Dulles was to continue to serve the long haul markets, limiting traffic and noise at National; the FAA assumed that ground level noise would be reduced because planes would take off light on fuel and be up and away quickly. The agreement limited jet flights to 650 statute miles (1,050 km), with 7 grandfathered exceptions under 1,000 statute miles (1,600 km). The spirit of the agreement was regularly violated as flights left National to an airport within the perimeter and then immediately took off for a destination beyond it. Within a year there was a proposal to reduce the perimeter to 500 statute miles (800 km), but it was widely opposed and never implemented. Overcrowding at National was later managed by the 1969 High Density Rule, thereby removing one of the justifications for the perimeter agreement.[33]

In the 1960s and 1970s, several attempts were made to codify the perimeter rule, but it was not until Dulles was endangered that it actually become a strict rule. In 1970 the FAA lifted the ban at National of the stretched Boeing 727-200, which resulted in a lawsuit by Virginians for Dulles who argued that the airport's jet traffic was a nuisance. That suit resulted in a Court of Appeals order to create an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In addition to the court order, there were economic problems at Dulles. Following the extension of Metrorail to National in 1977, and airline deregulation in 1978, traffic at Dulles began to plummet while it increased at National. As part of a slate of efforts to protect Dulles, including removing landing fees and mobile lounge user charges, the FAA proposed regulations as part of the EIS to limit traffic at National and maintain Dulles's role as the area's airport for long-haul destinations. In 1980, the FAA proposed codifying the perimeter rule as part of a larger rulemaking effort. When the rule was announced, airlines challenged it in court; the Metropolitan Washington Airports Policy of 1981 codified the perimeter rule on an interim basis "to maintain the long-haul nonstop service at Dulles and BWI which otherwise would preempt shorter haul service at National." At the same time, the perimeter was extended to 1,000 statute miles (1,600 km) miles to remove the unfairness of having seven grandfathered cities. The perimeter rule was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 1982.[34][33] In 1986, as part of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act, which handed control of National over to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the perimeter was extended to 1,250 statute miles (2,010 km) to allow nonstop flights to Houston with Dallas also being permitted to be served nonstop.[33]

Slots at the airport have been traded in several instances. In 2011 US Airways acquired a number of Delta's slots at National in exchange for Delta receiving a number of US Airways slots at LaGuardia Airport in New York. JetBlue paid $40 million to acquire eight slot pairs at auction in the same year.[35] JetBlue and Southwest acquired 12 and 27 US Airways slot pairs, respectively, in 2014 as part of a government-mandated divestiture following the merger of US Airways and American.[36]

Flights normally use Runway 1/19 (7169' x 150' / 2185 m x 46 m), as the shorter Runways 15/33 and 4/22 can accommodate them only under very windy conditions.

Transfer of control and renaming

In 1984, the Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole appointed a commission to study transferring National and Dulles Airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a local entity, which could use airport revenues to finance improvements.[19] The commission recommended that one multi-state agency administer both Dulles and National, over the alternative of having Virginia control Dulles and the District of Columbia control National.[19] In 1987 Congress, through legislation,[37] transferred control of the airport from the FAA to the new Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority with the Authority's decisions being subject to a Congressional review panel. The constitutionality of the review panel was later challenged in the Supreme Court and the Court has twice declared the oversight panel unconstitutional.[38] Even after this decision, however, Congress has continued to intervene in the management of the airports.[39]

On February 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed legislation[40] changing the airport's name from Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to honor the former president on his 87th birthday.[41] The legislation[42] was drafted against the wishes of MWAA officials and political leaders in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.[43][44] Opponents of the renaming argued that a large federal office building had already been named for Reagan, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, and that the airport was already named for George Washington, the first United States president.[44]

The bill stated that it did not require the expenditure of any funds to accomplish the name change; however, state, regional, and federal authorities were later required to change highway and transit signs at their own additional expense as new signs were made.[45][46]

21st century

The Washington Monument can be viewed in the distance as airplanes taxi.

In 2015, The Express conducted an online survey asking people what they call “the airport in Northern Virginia that’s not Dulles." The results found that only 31% of people referred to the airport as "Reagan" and only 12% as "Reagan National", compared to 57% dropping the former president from the name.[11] Political preference was shown to have a direct correlation with how people called the airport, with 72% of Republicans referring to the airport using "Reagan," while 64% of Democrats call it "National" or "DCA."[12]

Given that Washington, D.C., is one of the most Democratic cities in the United States, the dominant name does not feature the name "Reagan".[47]

Construction of current terminal buildings

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Terminal 2 from the tarmac in 2014
The airport with the Crystal City section of Arlington County in the background
Washington, D.C. (background) and tracks for the Washington Metro (left)

With the addition of more flights and limited space in the aging main terminal, the airport began an extensive renovation and expansion in the 1990s. Hangar 11 on the northern end of the airport was converted into The USAir Interim Terminal, designed by Joseph C. Giuliani, FAIA. Soon after an addition for Delta Air Lines was added in 1989 and was later converted to Authority offices. These projects allowed for the relocation of several gates in the main terminal until the new $450 million terminal complex became operational. On July 27, 1997, the new terminal complex, Terminal 2, and two parking garages, opened. Argentine architect César Pelli designed the new terminals of the airport. The Interim Terminal closed immediately after its opening and was converted back into a hangar. One pier of the main terminal (now widely known as Terminal A), which mainly housed American Airlines and Pan Am, was demolished; the other pier, originally designed by Giuliani Associates Architects for Northwest and TWA remains operational today as gates A1–A9.

A land bridge is planned which would connect the airport with National Landing directly to Amazon HQ2.[48]


Perimeter restrictions

Alaska 10 slots operating as 2x Seattle/Tacoma, 1x Los Angeles, 1x Portland (OR), 1x San Francisco
American 12 slots operating as 2x Los Angeles, 3x Phoenix–Sky Harbor, 1x Las Vegas
Delta 4 slots operating as 1x Salt Lake City, 1x Los Angeles
Frontier 6 slots operating as 3x Denver
JetBlue 2 slots operating as 1x San Juan
Southwest 2 slots operating as 1x Austin
United 4 slots operating as 1x Denver, 1x San Francisco

Reagan National Airport is subject to a federally mandated perimeter limitation to keep it a short-haul airport and to keep most long-haul air traffic to Dulles International Airport.[49] The rule was implemented in 1966 and originally limited nonstop service to 650 statute miles (1,050 km), with some exceptions for previously existing service.[49] Congress extended the limit in the 1980s to 1,000 miles (1,600 km) and then again to 1,250 miles (2,010 km).[50] Congress and the United States Department of Transportation have created many "beyond-perimeter" exceptions that have weakened the rule.[50]

Members of Congress repeatedly have sought to extend the limit and permit exceptions in order to allow nonstop service from National Airport to their home states and districts.[51][52] In 1999, Senator John McCain of Arizona introduced legislation to remove the 1,250 statute miles (2,010 km) restriction.[53] In the end the restriction was not lifted, but in 2000 the FAA was permitted to add 24 exemptions, which went to Alaska Airlines for flights to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. America West later obtained exemptions for non-stop flights to Phoenix in 2004. In May 2012, the DOT granted new exemptions for Alaska to serve Portland, JetBlue to serve San Juan, Southwest to serve Austin and Virgin America to serve San Francisco. American, Delta, United and US Airways were also each allowed to exchange a pair of in-perimeter slots for an equal number of beyond-perimeter slots.[54]

In 2023, representatives Chip Roy and Greg Casar, both of Austin, initiated a new bipartisan proposal to amend the perimeter under an FAA reauthorization bill; the current 1,250 mi perimeter passes through central Texas, giving the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex and Greater Houston access to Reagan while excluding Austin, El Paso and San Antonio, although Austin has a single daily nonstop flight under an exemption. Delta, Texas business interests, and Texas senator Ted Cruz back the amendment, while American Airlines and others oppose it, citing an FAA memo and statistics showing that Reagan has a high rate of delays and that additional flights may exceed its capacity.[55]

Approach patterns

Many pilots regard the Potomac River approach pattern at Reagan National Airport as one of the more interesting landing approaches in the United States[56]

Reagan National Airport has some of the strictest noise restrictions in the country.[14] In addition, due to security concerns, the areas surrounding the National Mall and U.S. Naval Observatory in central Washington are prohibited airspace up to 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Due to these restrictions, pilots approaching from the north are generally required to follow the path of the Potomac River and turn just before landing. This approach is known as the River Visual. Similarly, flights taking off to the north are required to climb quickly and turn left.[57][58]

The River Visual airport approach is only possible with a ceiling of at least 3,500 feet (1,100 m) and visibility of 3 statute miles (4.8 km) or more.[59] There are lights on the Key Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Mason Memorial Bridge to aid pilots following the river. Aircraft using the approach can be observed from various parks on the river's west bank. Passengers on the left side of an airplane can see the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Georgetown University, the National Mall, portions of Downtown Washington, D.C. (including the roof of Capital One Arena), and the White House. Passengers on the right side can see CIA headquarters, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, eastern Arlington, including portions of Rosslyn, Clarendon, Ballston, Crystal City, and the United States Air Force Memorial.

When the River Visual is not available due to visibility or winds, aircraft may fly an offset localizer or GPS approach to Runway 19 along a similar course (flying a direct approach course on instruments as far as Rosslyn, and then turning to align with the runway visually moments before touchdown). Most airliners are also capable of performing a VOR or GPS approach to the shorter Runway 15/33. Northbound visual and ILS approaches to Runway 1 are also sometimes used; these approaches follow the Potomac River from the south and overfly the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.[60]

Special security measures

In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 7910, creating the first restricted airspace around the District of Columbia. This would be superseded by a number of executive orders clarifying the boundaries of the airspace until 1966, when it was codified into Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, part 73. Title 14 created Prohibited Airspace 56 A and B (P-56A and P-56B). P-56A restricted flight around the National Mall, White House, and United States Capitol Building, while P-56B restricted flight in a half-mile radius from the center of the U.S. Naval Observatory. Only aircraft supporting the United States Secret Service, Office of the President, or some government agencies are permitted within the prohibited airspace.[61]

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, a Flight-Restricted Zone (FRZ) was put into effect. Extending 15 approximately nautical miles (or roughly 17 miles) around the airport, only scheduled commercial flights and governmental flights are allowed into the zone without a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration. Charter flights for the U.S. government are permitted to land at the airport and Joint Base Andrews under certain conditions.[62]

After the September 11 attacks, the airport was closed for several weeks, and security was tightened when it reopened. Increased security measures included:

On October 18, 2005, National Airport was reopened to general aviation on a limited basis (48 operations per day) and under restrictions: passenger and crew manifests must be submitted to the Transportation Security Administration 24 hours in advance, and all planes must pass through one of roughly 70 "gateway airports"[66] where re-inspections of aircraft, passengers, and baggage take place. An armed security officer must be on board before departing a gateway airport.[67] On March 23, 2011, the air traffic control supervisor on duty reportedly fell asleep during the night shift. Two aircraft on approach to the airport were unable to contact anyone in the control tower and landed unassisted.[68]

Terminals and facilities

National Hall in Terminal 2

DCA has 59 gates with jetways: 9 gates in Terminal 1 and 50 gates in Terminal 2 (13 gates in Concourse B, 12 in Concourse C, 11 in Concourse D and 14 in the new Concourse E).[69] The two terminals are not connected to each other post-security. A new terminal and gate numbering scheme was implemented in 2022. Previously Terminal 1 was Terminal A, and Terminal 2 was Terminal B/C, as it is one building. All gates also now have a letter, A through E for each of the five concourses. Therefore, Gate 33 became Gate C33. Other changes include B Parking and C Parking, becoming Parking 2 South and Parking 2 North.[70]

Terminal 1

From a store corridor, Terminal A's unique central design can be seen, in addition to several gates.
Interior of Terminal 1

Designed by architect Charles M. Goodman, terminal 1 opened in 1941 and was expanded in 1955 to accommodate more passengers and airlines. The exterior of this terminal has had its original architecture restored, with the airside façade restored in 2004 and the landside façade restored in 2008.[71] The terminal underwent a $37 million renovation that modernized the airport's look by bringing in brighter lighting, more windows, and new flooring. The project was completed in 2014 along with a new expanded TSA security checkpoint.[72] In 2014, additional renovations were announced including new upgraded concessions and further structural improvements, the project was completed in 2015.[73] Terminal 1 contains gates A1–A9 and houses operations from Air Canada Express, Frontier, and Southwest, with Southwest having the largest presence in Terminal 1.

Terminal 2

Inside departure area

Terminal 2 is the airport's newest and largest terminal; the terminal opened in 1997 and replaced a collection of airline-specific terminals built during the 1960s. The new terminal (Concourses B-D) was designed by architect Cesar Pelli and houses 35 gates. The terminal is directly connected to the WMATA airport station via indoor pedestrian bridges. Concourse E, which expanded Terminal 2, opened in 2021 as a replacement for Gate 35X, which was a bus gate.[74][75]

Terminals 2 has four concourses. Concourse B (Gates B10–B22) houses Alaska Airlines, Delta, and United. Concourse C (Gates C23–C34) houses American and JetBlue. Concourse D (Gates D35–D45) is exclusive to American for their hub at DCA along with Concourse E (Gates E46–E59) that houses American Eagle and American.[76] The corridor/hall connecting the four concourses of Terminal 2 is known as National Hall. Concourse B houses a Delta Sky Club and United Club, and there are three American Admirals Clubs in Terminal 2.[77] The Delta Sky Club was renovated in summer 2018.[78]


There are currently six airport lounges at the airport in all the Terminals. There are three American Airlines Admirals Clubs: one near gate C24 in concourse C, one in concourse D near gate D36, and one in Concourse E near gate E47. In concourse B there is a Delta Sky Club near gate B15, and a United Club near gate B10.[79] In Terminal 1 there is a USO lounge for retired and active military members pre-security. Originally scheduled for 2022, an American Express Centurion Lounge is scheduled to open in terminal 2 in 2023[80] by door 1 on the ticketing level.[81] A Capital One lounge is also scheduled to open in 2023.[82]

Project Journey

MWAA began construction of a new concourse north of Terminal 2 in February 2018 to accommodate 14 new regional jet gates with jetways, bringing the total number of gates at DCA to 60. This replaced "Gate 35X," a bus gate formerly used to bring passengers to and from American Eagle flights that used parking spots on the ramp. Officially called Project Journey, construction was completed on April 20, 2021.[74][75]

In addition, the individual security checkpoints for the four concourses in Terminal 2 were replaced with higher-capacity security checkpoints in two new buildings to the west of National Hall, located next to the two Metro station pedestrian bridges, and in between the two existing arrivals and departures roadways, placing all of National Hall within the secured area of the airport and allowing passengers to walk between concourses without re-clearing security.[74] The new checkpoints were opened on November 9, 2021.[83]

Ground transportation

The Reagan National Station of the Washington Metro connects the airport to the surrounding region via rail.

The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station on the Washington Metro, served by the Yellow and Blue lines, is located on an elevated outdoor platform station adjacent to Terminal 2. Two elevated pedestrian walkways connect the station directly to the concourse levels of Terminal 2. An underground pedestrian walkway and shuttle services provide access to Terminal 1.[84]

Metrobus provides service on weekend mornings before the Metro station opens or during any disruptions to regular Metro service.[citation needed]

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and connected to U.S. Route 1 by the Airport Viaduct (State Route 233). Interstate 395 is just north of the airport, and is also accessible by the G.W. Parkway and U.S. Route 1.[85] Airport-operated parking garage facilities as well as economy lots are available adjacent to or near the various airport terminals.

The airport is accessible by bicycle and foot from the Mount Vernon Trail, as well as the sidewalk along the Airport Viaduct (State Route 233), which connects the airport grounds to U.S. Route 1. A total of 48 bike parking spots are available across six separate bike racks. The airport has a Capital Bikeshare station,[86] making this the first major airport in the United States to have a dock-based bikeshare station.[87]

Airlines and destinations

Air Canada Express Montréal–Trudeau, Ottawa, Toronto–Pearson [88]
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma [89]
American Airlines Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale (begins November 5, 2023),[90] Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Raleigh/Durham, Tampa
Seasonal: Bangor, Burlington (VT), Charleston (SC), Columbus–Glenn, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Hartford, Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, Nassau, Panama City (FL), Pensacola, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Sarasota, Savannah, St. Louis, Syracuse, West Palm Beach
American Eagle Akron/Canton, Albany (NY), Asheville, Atlanta, Augusta (GA), Bangor, Baton Rouge, Birmingham (AL), Boston, Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Chattanooga, Chicago–O'Hare, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbia (SC), Columbus–Glenn, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Fort Myers, Grand Rapids, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Hartford, Indianapolis, Jackson (MS), Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Key West, Knoxville, Lansing, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Manchester (NH), Memphis, Milwaukee (begins October 5, 2023),[92] Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montgomery, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Panama City (FL), Pensacola, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Rochester (NY), Sarasota, Savannah, St. Louis, Syracuse, Tallahassee, Toronto–Pearson, Tulsa, West Palm Beach, White Plains, Wichita (begins January 8, 2024),[93] Wilmington (NC)
Seasonal: Daytona Beach, Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Halifax, Hilton Head, Martha's Vineyard, Melbourne/Orlando, Nantucket, Nassau, New Bern, Traverse City
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami (begins October 9, 2023),[94] Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando (begins October 9, 2023),[94] Salt Lake City [95]
Delta Connection Boston, Cincinnati, Lexington, Madison, Nashville (begins October 9, 2023),[94] New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Omaha, Raleigh/Durham [95]
Frontier Airlines Denver [96]
JetBlue Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Nassau, New York–JFK,[97] Orlando, San Juan, West Palm Beach
Seasonal: Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket
Southwest Airlines Atlanta, Austin, Chicago–Midway, Columbus–Glenn, Dallas–Love, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orlando, Providence, St. Louis, Tampa
Seasonal: Albany,[99] Fort Myers, Jacksonville (FL), Memphis,[99] Sarasota
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, San Francisco [101]
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark [101]


Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from DCA (June 2022 - May 2023)[102]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Boston, Massachusetts 812,000 American, Delta, JetBlue
2 Atlanta, Georgia 753,000 American, Delta, Southwest
3 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 692,000 American, United
4 Orlando, Florida 521,000 American, JetBlue, Southwest
5 Miami, Florida 479,000 American
6 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 444,000 American
7 New York–LaGuardia, New York 378,000 American, Delta
8 Charlotte, North Carolina 330,000 American
9 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 312,000 JetBlue, Southwest
10 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 258,000 American, Delta

Airline market share

Largest airlines at DCA (March 2021 – February 2022)[103]
Rank Airline Passengers Market share
1 American Airlines 4,555,000 29.92%
2 Southwest Airlines 2,048,000 13.45%
3 Delta Air Lines 1,559,000 10.24%
4 JetBlue Airways 837,000 5.50%
5 Alaska Airlines 441,000 2.90%
6 Other 5,783,000 37.99%

Annual traffic

Graphs are temporarily unavailable due to technical issues.
Annual passenger traffic at DCA airport. See Wikidata query.
Annual passenger traffic at DCA, 1991–present[104]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
2000 15,888,199 2010 18,118,713 2020 7,574,966 2030
1999 15,185,348 2009 17,577,359 2019 23,945,527 2029
1998 15,970,306 2008 18,028,287 2018 23,464,618 2028
1997 15,907,006 2007 18,679,343 2017 23,903,248 2027
1996 15,226,500 2006 18,550,785 2016 23,595,006 2026
1995 15,506,244 2005 17,847,884 2015 23,039,429 2025
1994 15,700,825 2004 15,944,542 2014 20,810,387 2024
1993 16,307,808 2003 14,223,123 2013 20,415,085 2023
1992 15,593,535 2002 12,881,601 2012 19,655,440 2022 23,961,442
1991 15,098,697 2001 13,265,387 2011 18,823,094 2021 14,044,724

Abingdon plantation historical site

A part of the airport is located on the former site of the 18th and 19th century Abingdon plantation, which was associated with the prominent Alexander, Custis, Stuart, and Hunter families.[105] In 1998, MWAA opened a historical display around the restored remnants of two Abingdon buildings and placed artifacts collected from the site in an exhibit hall in Terminal A.[106][107] The Abingdon site is located on a knoll between parking Garage A and Garage B/C, near the south end of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metrorail station.[106][108][109][110]

Accidents and incidents

Page Airways

On April 27, 1945, a Page Airways Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar on a charter flight[111] crashed into a deep ditch at the end of runway 33 after aborting a takeoff due to engine failure. There were strong gusts and ground turbulence at the time. Out of the 13 passengers and crew on board, six passengers were killed.[112] Although a contemporary newspaper report indicated that the flight's intended destination had been Rochester, New York,[111] the Civil Aeronautics Board's accident investigation report stated that the destination had been New York, N.Y.[112]

Eastern Air Lines Flight 537

Main article: Eastern Air Lines Flight 537

On November 1, 1949, a mid-air collision between an Eastern Air Lines passenger aircraft and a P-38 Lightning military plane took the lives of 55 passengers. The sole survivor was the Bolivian pilot of the fighter plane, Erick Rios Bridoux.[113]

Bridoux's plane had taken off from National just 10 minutes earlier and was in contact with the tower during a brief test flight. The Eastern Air Lines DC-4 was on approach from the south when the nimble and much faster P-38 banked and plunged right into the passenger plane. Both aircraft dropped into the Potomac River.

Capital Airlines Flight 500

On December 12, 1949, Capital Airlines Flight 500, a Douglas DC-3, stalled and crashed into the Potomac River while on approach to Washington National. Six of the 23 passengers and crew on board were killed.[114]

Air Florida Flight 90

Main article: Air Florida Flight 90

On the afternoon of January 13, 1982,[115] following a period of exceptionally cold weather and a morning of blizzard conditions, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed after waiting forty-nine minutes on a taxiway and taking off with ice and snow on the wings. The Boeing 737 aircraft failed to gain altitude. Less than 1 statute mile (1.6 km) from the end of the runway, the airplane struck the 14th Street Bridge complex, shearing the tops off vehicles stuck in traffic before plunging through the 1-inch-thick (25 mm) ice covering the Potomac River. Rescue responses were greatly hampered by the weather and traffic. Due to action on the part of motorists, a United States Park Service police helicopter crew, and one of the plane's passengers who later died, five occupants of the downed plane survived. The other 74 people who were aboard died, as well as four occupants of vehicles on the bridge. President Reagan cited motorist Lenny Skutnik in his State of the Union Address a few weeks later.

United Airlines Flight 2003 & Republic Airways 4736

On the morning of March 8, 2023, Republic Airways Flight 4736, an Embarer E175 (Registration N401YX) was given taxi instructions to cross Runway 4 at J but the airplane turned onto F and entered Runway 1. Meanwhile, a United Airlines Airbus A319 (Registration N819UA) started take-off from Runway 1. The Tower controller noticed that and cancelled takeoff clearence. Delta Airlines Flight 2476, an Airbus A321 that was on short final for Runway 1 was instructed to go-around. Originally, the DCA Ground Controller gave RPA4736 instructions to taxi to Runway 33 via taxiways; NOVEMBER, JULIET, FOXTROT, then Hold Short of Runway 1. The crew read these instructions back. As the crew approached Taxiway FOXTROT, the DCA Ground Controller gave them instructions to cross Runway 4 at JULIET and to monitor the Tower frequency. The crew read back these instructions. It is believed that this was a case of instruction bias. This incident took headlines as before this incident, two similar near-disastrous runway incursions occurred at two different airports around the United States.[116]


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