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Which DC-area airport is busiest?

Travelers sit at a gate at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Linthicum, Md. Favorable weather is helping get the Thanksgiving travel rush off to a smooth start. By midday Tuesday, just a few dozen flights had been canceled around the U.S. That's fewer cancelations than many regular travel days. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — Amid the Thanksgiving rush to the region’s airports, BWI Marshall remains the region’s busiest.

Two-thirds of those flying there take Southwest.

Rail riders can expect Union Station to be busy too, since Amtrak saw its busiest day ever last Thanksgiving weekend. Amtrak adds extra trains this week, particularly the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving, to accommodate around 800,000 riders.

Airport numbers

BWI Marshall Airport saw 27.1 million passengers pass through in the 12 months ending in September, 4.5 percent more than the prior year.

Smaller Reagan National Airport had 23.6 million passengers in the year ending in September, down slightly with a number of flight cancellations due to weather. Dulles International Airport saw 23.7 million passengers in the year ending in September. One-third of those passengers are on international flights.

Reagan National has 44 gates; BWI-Marshall has 72 gates including international flights; and Dulles has 139 gates including international flights.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles, hopes to drive more passengers to Dulles in coming years. The authority projects the number of people boarding planes at Dulles could match Reagan National in 2021, then top Reagan National starting in 2022.

Dulles last edged Reagan National in the number of people boarding planes in 2014.

That forecast expects growth at Reagan National would be around 0.8 percent in coming years as limits on the destinations and types of flights from the airport continue due to significant support for boosting Dulles.

At Dulles, the forecast projects passenger growth of more than 2 percent each year through 2023.

It continues to be cheaper for airlines to fly from Reagan National than from Dulles, although efforts like a cash infusion from the state of Virginia have lowered the cost per passenger at Dulles Airport to around $17. At Reagan National, the cost is closer to $12.

The airports authority also hopes to make Dulles more convenient, with new discounts on some holiday season parking for people who reserve in advance, and new curbside valet parking.

“We’ve also had some interesting customer experiences since the valet launch. They include a gentleman wanting to drop off his rental car at the curb. In fact, that also gave us an idea about the future,” Executive Vice President Jerome Davis said.

The valet parking charge is $35 per day.

People picking up or dropping off friends and family at either Reagan National Airport or BWI Marshall this weekend can park free for up to one hour in hourly garages. The intent is to reduce the number of drivers circling or waiting, which can add to traffic jams.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect a difference between enplanements and total passenger counts.


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