Don't look now, but Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) -- the DC area's third largest in terms of passenger traffic since being overtaken by nearby Reagan National (DCA) in 2015 -- is taxiing towards the runway of a veritable renaissance. This could be a big year here, and we could not be more excited for the principle international airport serving our home city.
Long plagued by mediocre culinary and wine choices, over 100 restaurants and stores now call Dulles home. We're told that 75 are "relatively new". A good number of these are typical airport fare retail establishments, but there's something gourmet happening here, and we're not just talking about the fantastic Turkish Airlines lounge you'll find in Concourse B. Local favorite Chef Geoff's headlines a list of other relative newcomers touted by the airport that include The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck in Concourse A and Bar Symon in Concourse D. That Geoff Tracy has set up shop in the once-barren Concourse C gives us hope that this infamously "temporary" terminal's worst days are in the past as airport representatives talk of their effort to attract local chefs, local foods, and local concepts.
Airlines, meanwhile, continue to add new flights on new routes. Though LATAM's recent announcement that it was discontinuing its non-stop service between Dulles and Lima is bad news for travelers eyeing Peru as a destination, 2018 will introduce non-stops to Hong Kong, Edinburgh, and Delhi (among others) which combines with existing service to Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul to begin plugging the hole in the airport's Asia coverage map. There's a long way to go here, but the direction is positive.
I'll add also that while sitting in one of the smaller United Clubs out in Concourse C/D, I learned that November was United's most successful operational month ever spent at Dulles since opening their hub there years ago, boasting two missed bags per 1,000 alongside with on-time rates that peaked at 95% in a single day.
There's still a lot to be done here. The mere 213-mile distance between United's two east coast hubs at Newark and Dulles leads to frequent fussing in the aviation community of long-term viability of the smaller Dulles hub. There are, yet, three prevailing factors leading me to conclude that United is here to stay. First, Dulles has managed to drive its cost per enplaned passenger (that's the cost an airline pays for each passenger it moves through the airport) down from an astronomical $28.52 in 2014 to a much more competitive $17.57 in 2017 (DCA's was $13.79 last year). Second, Metro's Silver Line is scheduled to bring rail service to Dulles in the next several years, relieving decades of difficulty passengers closer to the urban core have getting to and from the airport. Third, Washington comes with a higher built in floor of annual international passenger traffic than many other cities. Again -- our hunch -- that while this may never lead to a Newark or Chicago scale hub here, it's also not something that United would be keen to surrender.
Give Dulles a try this year, particularly if you've spent recent years avoiding it. We're off to Madrid in less than three weeks on our annual Presidents Day Weekend adventure. Air France will take us through Paris and on to Madrid. Our origin? Dulles, the jumping off point for Wine:Thirty Flight international in 2018.