MWAA officials say sequester means longer airport wait times


(Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Air traffic controllers are back in the towers, but area airports are still feeling the pinch of sequestration. Passengers flying in and out of Reagan National and Dulles International airports are encountering longer wait times as they move through security lines, officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said this week.

According to statistics from MWAA, which oversees operations at Reagan National and Dulles International, average wait times have almost doubled in some cases, from less than 15 minutes to as long as 25 to 30 minutes. During the afternoon, waits that were less than 10 minutes pre-sequester can now be as long as 30.

Wait times at Dulles in the mornings are about two to three minutes longer and about five to seven minutes longer during peak afternoons — generally from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays are typically busier at Dulles, and on those day the wait times can be about 10 to 11 minutes longer, officials sad.

International travelers were among the first to experience longer wait times. The weekend the mandatory spending cuts were put into effect, airports in Miami and New York reported waits of as long as three hours.

At Dulles, wait times have increased an average of 10-15 minutes for international travelers. During peak hours — generally between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m., wait times have increased an average of 30 minutes.

One might think all these passengers standing around would be good for airport businesses, but Jack Potter, MWAA’s president and CEO, said officials are concerned that it might have the opposite effect. Folks are so worried about long security lines that they are less likely to linger at shops or restaurants. While there are some shops and restaurants once travelers move through security, most of the sit-down venues are located before travelers more through security.

Potter also said sequester-related cuts in government travel could also have an impact on MWAA’s bottom line. About 20 percent of the folks who travel through Dulles and Reagan National are government employees or contractors.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.

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