Reagan National Airport Terminal Pixabay

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A year filled with turbulence ended on a challenging note for Northern Virginia’s two major airports, with passenger counts in December off by two-thirds at one and four-fifths at the other when compared to a year before.

And for the year as a whole, passenger counts at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports, combined, were down more than 67 percent compared to 2019.

December and year-end figures were released Feb. 19 by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates both facilities.

For the year as a whole, 7.6 million passengers traveled through Reagan National and 8.3 million through Dulles, representing declines of 68.4 percent and 66.4 percent, respectively.

For December, traffic at Dulles totaled about 700,000, off 65.7 percent from a year ago, while the 400,000 travelers moving through Reagan National represented a year-over-year plunge of 80.2 percent.

For Dulles, the December data – while not robust – may be something to mildly celebrate. Passenger enplanements, which represent about half the total passenger count, in December were the largest since March.

At Reagan National, however, enplanements since July have been in a narrow range (from 202,000 to 228,000 per month), and December’s total was the second lowest during that six-month period.

Passenger-count declines among airlines for December were relatively uniform at Reagan National: Totals were off 81.3 percent at dominant carrier American Airlines, with drops of 83.4 percent at Southwest Airlines, 80.6 percent at United Airlines, 80 percent at Alaska Airlines, 77.4 percent at JetBlue, 76.7 percent at Delta Air Lines and down 51.1 percent at the more leisure-oriented Frontier Airlines.

At Dulles, domestic-travel passenger counts were down 59.5 percent at dominant United, 69.4 percent at Delta, 74.6 percent at American, 60.7 percent at Southwest and 88.9 percent at Alaska.

In terms of international passengers at Dulles, United was down 70.9 percent, Lufthansa 82.1 percent, British Airways 85.5 percent, Air France 84.4 percent, Avianca 64.1 percent and Korean Air 86.9 percent. Two carriers that saw smaller drop-offs were Ethiopian Airlines (down 24.4 percent) and Turkish Airlines (off 45.2 percent). Service from Air China remained suspended for the month.

At Dulles, total tonnage of domestic cargo carried for the month was up 10.7 percent from a year before, due largely to additional service from FedEx, but international cargo declined 32.3 percent due largely to fewer flights by United and international carriers.

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(1) comment

Brad London

Why is this a surprise? Why is this even news during a pandemic?

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