A Upcoming Death in the Dulles Family

Speaking of Eero Saarinen-designed terminals . . . let’s check in on Washington/Dulles. When was I speaking about Sarrinen terminals, you ask? Well, both JFK’s terminal 5 (from yesterday’s post) and the main terminal at Dulles were designed by Saarinen. Unfortunately, he died in 1961, a year before both structures opened to passengers.

Had Saarinen been around long enough to actually try flying out of Dulles, he would probably have quickly learned what a painful place it can be. Why is it so painful?

The mobile lounge.

Back in the day, the idea was an interesting one. You would check in for your flight and then wait to have a mobile lounge take you directly to your plane. Unfortunately, it’s not as idyllic as it sounds. The mobile lounges create a lot of ground traffic, and if there was one lounge per plane, it would be like rush hour gridlock on the beltway. So, back in the mid-1980’s, they built the first of the “temporary” midfield concourses. More than 20 years later, that temporary building is still there.

Now, you hop on a mobile lounge and wait for what seems like an eternity (but is probably only 2 minutes). Finally, they drive you over to the midfield concourse and then you hop off to find your gate, which could be quite a ways away. Fortunately, the death of the mobile lounge is coming in 2009 with the opening of the AeroTrain.

07_05_30 iadmobile

They’ve been working on a big Dulles enhancement program in recent years, and it’s a welcome undertaking. If you’d like to read about everything they’re doing/have done, click here.

The most important enhancements that have yet to be finished are:

  • A new runway to increase capacity
  • A new, permanent midfield Concourse C/D
  • The AeroTrain

The train will take you from the main terminal to three location at first: Concourse A, Concourse B, and the future home of Concourse C. If this doesn’t make sense, check out this map.

07_05_30 aerotrain

You can see that it’s all set up nicely, except for Concourse C/D. That temporary concourse really is going to go away (though I can’t find a projected date), and when it does the AeroTrain will stop right underneath the nice new concourse. Until that time, there will still be a walk from the stop. As if C/D could get any worse.

Either way, it’s better than the mobile lounge. No more waiting for traffic to cross, no strange detours around obstacles. Just an easy train that goes back and forth with ease.

So, let’s begin the 2 year countdown until the death of the mobile lounge . . . a great idea that in practice was absolutely terrible.

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