Bye, 35X: Tour of the concourse at Reagan National that will retire the dreaded gate

Next week’s soft opening of a new concourse at Reagan National Airport will provide creature comforts to air travelers — and end the suffering of passengers who looked at the departure board and realized they were flying out of Gate 35X.

Starting April 20, passengers will be able to walk to 14 newly-built gates, which will be the home of American Airlines’ regional service.

Until now, 35X has been a less-than-comfortable experience for passengers, said vice president and airport manager Paul Malandrino.

“It was a very crowded, old room. Regardless of the weather, you had to walk outside, get on your bus, take the bus, get off the bus, in the weather, get on your airplane,” said Malandrino.

Glen Zacek, director of customer service for the airline at the airport, didn’t disagree.

“The whole busing operation, the hardstands and everything, was really just built out of necessity,” Zacek said. “This is built for the customer.”

On Thursday, reporters were offered the chance to see the concourse before it opens to the public.

The sounds of hammers and other construction noises continue in the open, airy concourse.

Reagan National’s facilities were designed to serve 15 million passengers per year, but more than 23 million passengers traveled through the airport in 2019. The airport’s Project Journey will cost about $1 billion.

While the walls and glass and metal are in keeping with the look of the adjacent terminals, the new concourse has modern features.

In the weeks following the soft launch, concessions, including restaurants and coffee shops, will move into the new concourse.

As work crews continue to finalize construction before the soft launch, the airy, clean, comfortable concourse appears to be almost ready for passengers.

As for Gate 35X, an airport spokesperson said the area it occupied — down the escalator from Gate 35 — will be repurposed.


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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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