Dulles Expands International Arrivals Area With New Building

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dulles International Airport will open an expanded international arrivals building Tuesday, eliminating some of the waiting time in customs and immigration processing lines.

Airport officials on Monday showed off the building's 41,400-square-foot arrivals hall, which doubles the capacity of the old facility. The building boosts the number of inspection positions from 38 to 50. It has a higher ceiling, brighter lights, flat screens and an extended view of the rear of the Eero Saarinen-designed main terminal. The airport said the price tag was $77 million.

James E. Bennett, chief executive of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said Dulles needed the new building to accommodate growth in international air service. Dulles served about 1.4 million international travelers a year in 1991 when the original building was constructed, compared with 6.2 million last year, he said.

The airport said the added area will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services to process 2,400 passengers an hour, up from 1,400 in the old space. The original space used for processing will be devoted to expanding the baggage claim area, airport officials said.

The improvements are also meant to boost Dulles as a draw for airlines seeking to increase international service, a lucrative segment in the hard-hit travel industry. Last spring, Dulles added nonstop service to Moscow and Geneva; last fall, it added the Colombian airline Avianca, which flies to Bogota. Germany's Lufthansa also opened a lounge at the airport this year. Dulles is expecting its first A380 double-deck airliner in 2010.

"As the international market continues to grow, this will give us the ability to handle that growth and provide better service to customers," Bennett said.

The expansion is part of a multiyear capital construction program that has added more than $3 billion in improvements to Dulles since 2000. Last week, the airport opened a 121,700-square-foot underground passenger screening area. The airport is also slated to open its replacement for the mobile-lounge transit system, called the AeroTrain, by the end of the year.

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