Passenger traffic at Reagan National, Dulles down 93% from May 2019

A woman walks in an empty terminal at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 22, 2020. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

The number of passengers at Reagan National and Dulles airports continued to rise in May, but it remains just a fraction of the number of flyers a year ago, and the most recent data may not capture a recent reversal in passengers reported by airlines nationwide.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports a 92.8% drop in total passengers at both airports in May, compared to a year ago. In May 2019, Reagan National and Dulles saw a combined 4.47 million passengers, or an average of 149,000 a day. This May, the monthly total was 320,000, or an average of less than 11,000 a day.

Airlines report their data to the Airports Authority on a delay of two months; May totals are the most recent available.

TSA screenings at U.S. airports steadily rose throughout June, and reached the highest level since mid-April on the July 4 weekend. On July 2, TSA screened almost 765,000 passengers nationwide, up from just 87,000 on April 14.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought air travel to a near standstill, TSA typically screened about 2.5 million passengers a day.

Businesses at the airports are slowly reopening.

The Airports Authority reports there are 28 retail and food service concessions open at Reagan National Airport, out of a total of 86. At Dulles, 27 out of 99 concessions are now open.

Earlier this month, the Airports Authority agreed to lower concessions operators’ rents by between 5% and 15% for the remainder of the year, and to waive fees it usually collects as a share of concessions operators’ gross sales for the rest of the year as well.

The slowdown has benefited the Airports Authority’s ongoing construction work at Reagan National, increasing the work schedules for construction of a new terminal and security checkpoints.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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