When you spend as much time in airports as I do, you notice little things that make your life easier…or not.
Lately, I’ve been loving Dulles Airport. Of the three airports near me in the Washington, DC area (National, Dulles and BWI), it’s the farthest for me to drive. But Dulles works so well now that I don’t even mind the drive. Here’s the good stuff I love…
1) Using the new AeroTrain.
Finally, Dulles has a quick train that runs between terminals. It’s clean, bright and fast. The train replaces the old mobile lounges (funny, they never felt like lounges) that trundled across the runways above ground. There are still a few mobile lounges in operation, but I haven’t been on one since the train started operation.
Architecturally, the passenger approaches to the train’s underground tunnels feel light and airy. Floors glow from underneath. Heading for the train out of B terminal, suspended in the well of the long escalator, is a tiny one-person flying machine labeled “Daedalus.” Its long slender wings look as fragile as those of dragonflies. It’s the first human-powered airplane, I understand, on loan from MIT.
One little niggle…Dulles needs a bit better signage coming off the trains. Signs clearly direct you to the baggage carousels by number, but not by airline. So it’s easy to exit toward one end of the airport when you need to be on the other. I imagine they’ll fix that soon.
2) Not using the new AeroTrain.
When I’m in a hurry, the AeroTrain gets me there fast. But if I’ve got some time to kill, I can walk all the way from my car in the daily parking lot to my gate. I bet it’s at least half a mile, depending where you’re flying to. There aren’t many airports where you have the option to walk if you want the exercise (Atlanta’s Hartsfield’s another one). At Dulles, you can hop on the moving sidewalk…or not. Take the train…or not…at least to the A and B terminals.
Being able to walk between terminals means a lot to me. When I’m flying, that’s probably the only exercise I’ll get. I hate coming back to the U.S. through Chicago’s O’Hare, for instance, because your only option after leaving International Arrivals is to take a very crowed little train. The distance to the main terminals isn’t far, but there’s no way to walk it.
3) The Dulles Diamond Security Lanes.
The security lines at Dulles have been way improved to coordinate with the AeroTrain. But there’s a little-known other place to go through security at Dulles that’s even better.
Really, I’ve debated whether I wanted to tell you this or not. It’s such a delicious thing to know about Dulles, and way under-used. I’d like to keep it that way. But still, you should know that downstairs, near baggage carousel 8, are the Dulles Diamond lanes. They’re reserved for experienced travelers. They expect you to know how to whip off your shoes (and no experienced traveler, as we saw in Up in the Air, would ever wear lace-up shoes), take off your jacket, scarf, sweater, pop your computer into the plastic bin and toss the exactly portioned baggie of your liquids into a different bin.
There’s never a line down at the Dulles Diamond lanes. The few people who are there whisk through.
There’s lots more to like at Dulles, but these are my favorite things. Haven’t been to Dulles later? You might want to give it try.