“It’s a major customer service milestone that we’re reaching, and we’re reaching it in record time — much earlier than expected,” Jack Potter, chief executive of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, announced at a recent board meeting. MWAA manages National and its sister airport, Washington Dulles International.
The opening of the new concourse will mean travelers won’t have to use Gate 35X to catch their flights. With its narrow escalators, cramped holding area and shuttle buses, the gate is infamous among regulars at National.
There is no word about how 35X will be repurposed once operations shift to the new concourse — feel free to post your suggestions in the comments section or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org — but officials at American Airlines, which operates out of 35X, hinted they may host a special goodbye (good riddance?) celebration.
“American Airlines plans to transition regional operations from hardstand gates to the new north concourse as soon as April 20, when the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority anticipates boarding areas and jet bridges will be open and operational,” the airline said in a statement. “The transition will permanently eliminate busing operations from Gate 35X while offering an enhanced experience for customers traveling to and from the National Capital Region.”
The 230,000-square-foot concourse is on the north side of the airport and will connect to the existing Terminal C. It is being built as part of a $1 billion airport upgrade dubbed Project Journey.
In addition to 14 new gates, it will be home to an American Airlines Admirals Club lounge and more than 14,000 square feet of retail and food offerings. Among the restaurants expected to occupy the new building: Elevation Burger, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill and Founding Farmers.
A second element of the project is construction of new security checkpoints, which will be housed in a separate building across from terminals B and C. Airport officials originally had planned for the checkpoints to open ahead of the new concourse, but crews ran into problems that will delay the opening until the third quarter of this year.
Once construction is complete, the number of security checkpoints at the airport will increase to 28 from the current 20.
When the new building opens, the general public will no longer have access to National Hall — the glass-enclosed area that is home to Legal Seafood and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Visitors who want a bowl of clam chowder will need to have a boarding pass.