Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt announced plans yesterday to try to make flights at Dulles International Airport more attractive to the airlines by waiving landing fees and mobile lounge charges.
Current landing fees at Dulles range up to $220 a landing, depending on the size of the plane. The airlines also pay the government $55 every time they use mobile lounges to carry passengers to and from the terminal building to the planes sitting on the jet ramps. For the next two years, these charges will be dropped.
The plan is designed to give the airlines some economic incentive to transfer some flights from the more popular and close-in Washington National Airport to the increasingly underutilized Dulles. Easing the traffic burden at National is called for by the DOT's Metropolitan Washington Airports policy, which significantly reduces the number of takeoffs and landings and operating hours at National next April.
"We recognize that concerns have been expressed, both by the airlines and by some political leaders, that a major shift of activity to Dulles could be complicated by economic, competitive and ground-access factors," Goldschmidt said yesterday. "We are determined to address each of these issues to assure that . . . we do all we can to assist the transition to these new arrangements."
The DOT also announced a number of other actions to encourage greater use of Dulles. It said that the Federal Aviation Administration, the part of the DOT that operates both Dulles and National, will allow some smaller jets, Boeing 737s and the smaller McDonnell Douglas DC9s to pick up and discharge passengers on the airport's south concourse at the base of the air traffic control tower until commuter aircraft activity builds to a higher level. That move will save the airlines a lot of operating time, and time means money.
The DOT also said it would work with the airlines to upgrade bus and limousine service to and from the airport. New buses will be purchased, an automated ground transportation information service will be created, and the improved ground transportation service will be promoted aggressively, the DOT promised.
It also plans to speed the completion of a stretch of 2 1/2 miles of roadway to connect the Dulles Access Highway with the soon-to-open section of I-66 inside the Capital Beltway. Subject to a favorable outcome on the current environmental studies, construction of the project will start next summer instead of next fall and will be completed in 1984, the DOT said.