Southwest Coming to Reagan National

Whiles its local service is concentrated at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Southwest Airlines has become more of a presence at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (Photo by Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines)

The only question, in reporting April’s passenger totals at the region’s airports, is how many g’s are required in the adjective “uggggggggggly.”

Year-over-year passenger counts were down 97 percent at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 96 percent at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and 95 percent at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The three airports, which in April 2019 carried nearly 6.4 million passengers to and from points across the globe, this April carried just 255,000, due to the health pandemic and resulting economic meltdown.

Figures come from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates National and Dulles. BWI is run by the Maryland state government.

How weird a month was it? At Dulles, Ethiopian Airlines was the second largest carrier – its passenger count of 7,222, while down 55 percent from a year before, still placed it ahead of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

Ethiopian kept on flying for part of the month, but many other international carriers cut out Dulles flights entirely. Lufthansa, Air France, Avianca and Air China carried not a single passenger to local airports in April.

The passenger downturn started to hit in March, but did not nosedive until the start of April. April’s passenger counts, compared to March, were down 80 percent at Dulles and more than 90 percent at Reagan National.

The major carriers at each of the airports retained the positions at the top, albeit with significantly lower passenger counts. American Airlines was dominant at Reagan National, United Airlines at Dulles and Southwest Airlines at BWI.

For the first four months of the year, year-over-year passengers counts are down 40 percent at Reagan National and 38 percent at Dulles.

Cargo totals also took a major hit during the month, particularly due to the shutdown of international service from some carriers at Dulles.

Based on screening data provided by the Transportation Security Administration, the number of commercial passengers nationwide began to pick up in mid-May, and that increase has continued through June.  However, passenger screenings are still 75% to 80% below what they were the year before. 

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