Washington Ronald Reagan Airport Guide
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Your Complete Guide to Washington Ronald Reagan Airport

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was previously known as simply the Washington National Airport, but in 1998, was named in honour of the former US President, Ronald W. Reagan. The airport is referred to by its IATA code of DCA, and its ICAO code is listed as KDCA. It is a large American airport, serving over eighteen million passengers per annum, even though it does not handle international fights, and is managed by the same airport authority as the Washington Dulles International Airport. These two airports form an important airport system, which is also helped by the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, located approximately forty miles from Washington, D.C.

The DCA airport is located about three miles, or 4.8km south of downtown Washington, just across the Potomac River, and in Arlington County. It is an airport in the state of Virginia, although, the downtown area of Washington is located in the District of Columbia. Virginia is on the eastern side of the country, to the north of North Carolina, to the east of West Virginia and to the south of Maryland. The Washington National Airport is in the nearby vicinity of Alexandria, and the areas of Aurora Heights, Potomac West and Long Branch Creek. Access to the airport is simple by way of the Interstate 395 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs past the airport grounds on its western perimeters. On its eastern side lies the Potomac River.

This is one of the American airports that is fortunate enough to have its own railway station. Its passengers can therefore travel easily to or from the airport in a very convenient and cost-efficient way. The Metrorail trains are frequently available for transport to or from the downtown area of the city, and cost just a few dollars per ticket. Access to the airport is provided by Metrobuses on weekend mornings before the trains are in operation. Private shuttle services operated by Supreme Airport Shuttle and SuperShuttle can be arranged as well, or a taxi can be taken from anywhere in the city to the airport. Taxis are quite cheap from the city centre as the airport is only three miles away. Arriving passengers have the option to rent a car as well, from one of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport car hire companies, such as Budget, Avis, Hertz, National or Enterprise.

The airport’s main airline companies are US Airways, with the largest share of traffic, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Their flights depart for a large number of cities in the United States, such as Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Orlando, Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago. Further important airline companies include AirTran Airways, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Eagle, Virgin America, US Airways Express (operated by Air Wisconsin, Chautauqua Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, Republic Airlines and PSA Airlines), Sun Country Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Air Canada and Air Canada Express (operated by Jazz Air). The last two mentioned as well as Air Wisconsin offer flights to Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, in Canada. The airport can receive flights from these cities as their airports are equipped with US border preclearance facilities.

Reagan National Airport is only allowed to operate non-stop flights to destinations that are within 1,250 statute miles, in order to ensure that the majority of air traffic is directed to the larger Washington Dulles International Airport, that is located further from the city centre. However, there are ‘beyond-perimeter slot exemptions’ that allow certain carriers to operate 20 daily round-trip flights to further locations.

The airport also has extra security precautions in place that are required by the Washington Air Defence Identification Zone because of its close proximity to the city. However, before the September 11 attacks in 2001, the only precaution was that flights should approach the airport from the south, as most of central Washington is declared as ‘prohibited airspace’ up to 18,000 feet. Departing flights may also not fly over the White House, and therefore need to make a steep left turn shortly after their ascent. After September 11, 2001, precautions included a ban on general aviation, a ban on aircraft with more than 156 seats, a ban on the ‘River Visual’ approach and passengers on all flights were required to be seated for thirty minutes prior to landing, or following take-off. These additional precautions have all been lifted, however, general aviation is only permitted on a limited basis (48 operations per day), and under some fairly heavy restrictions.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has a long history, dating back to 1938, when President Roosevelt selected the site for the construction of the new Washington National Airport. The airport opened for business in 1941, with only one hangar, but with five under construction. Over the years many improvements were made to the airport’s facilities, including extensions to the main terminals, a new North Terminal, new air cargo buildings, new United Airlines holdrooms and ticketing facilities, a new American Airlines facility and the Metrorail Station. In 1989, the airport opened its Interim Terminal, that was used until the completion of Terminals B and C, which were opened in 1997, and which replaced the previous airline specific terminals of the airport. A number of new parking garages were also constructed for the terminal buildings.

Currently, the airport occupies a land area of 860 acres, of which 127 acres are under water, and consists of three terminals, Terminal A, Terminal B and Terminal C, which have a total of forty-four airline gates, thirty-five of which are in Terminals B/C. Terminal A is still the original terminal of the airport that was constructed in 1941, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was, however, expanded in the 1950’s, and is due for further renovations, though it will retain its historic features. In 2010 the airport handled 18.1 million passengers, and in 2011, 18.8 million passed through its terminal buildings.

For Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport passengers there are many facilities available that include shops, restaurants, free Wi-Fi services, an interfaith chapel, conference rooms for hire, an ISO lounge and information counters. The airport is designed to assist passengers with mobility challenges. Further information regarding the Reagan National Airport is available at the following contact number: (703) 417-8000.