My local regional airport is making progress yet again. Today new non-stop service from Erie International Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport was announced. The service will be twice daily and operated by United Express. My guess it will be on the abominable 50-seat CRJ-200 or if we are lucky an ERJ-145. United also hasn’t been the best of the big three mainline carriers and their hub at IAD in the “temporary” C/D concourse is an embarrassment. Still additional service from a small regional airport is better than no service at all. This will be a nice addition to United for connections to Europe or the southeast US.
The addition of IAD service brings the total non-stop destinations out of ERI to 4:
ORD- United 2X daily & American 1X daily
CLT- American 2X daily
DTW- Delta 3X daily
United “Temporary” Terminal
IAD has definite inadequacies like the people mover stopping 100 yards past the United concourse and the reliance on the antiquated “mobile lounges” to shuttle people around the airfield and sometimes directly onto aircraft.
Much of the infrastructure problem is due to the United operating out of a midfield terminal for close to 40 years that was supposed to be replaced by a more permanent structure decades ago. Even the AeroTrain station which connects the terminals was built 100 yards south of the C-Concourse where the new terminal is supposed to go.
The heavily carpeted C/D Concourse is cramped and doesn’t have an abundance of natural light. There has been a plan to replace the entire terminal with a more modern iteration for at least the past 20 years. However those plans have never gotten off the ground. IAD is a profitable hub for United and massive upgrades to the infrastructure would significantly affect the bottom line. To that extent, United has been making incremental changes to their aging terminal such as streamlining the international arrivals area and adding a high end Polaris Lounge. These incremental investments indicate that the “temporary” terminal will still be around for years to come.
The “Other” Terminal
While the dilapidated United C/D Concourse is cringe worthy the other midfield Concourse A/B is a gem. It’s bright and airy and serves many international airlines.
With Dulles’ position as the premier international airport to the nation’s capital many international airlines provide service to it. Along with them comes a host of fine lounges. What’s even better is 4 of them are accessible with Priority Pass:
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse– Concourse A, across from Gate A32
Air France/KLM Lounge– Concourse A, across from Gate A22
British Airways Galleries Lounge- Concourse B, across from Gate B50
Turkish Airlines Lounge- Concourse B, across from Gate B53
IAD Turkish Airlines Lounge
The 4 superb Priority Pass lounges might be the saving grace of IAD. Also fortunate is even though United is the sole occupant of Concourse C/D, they also operate regional jet gates at the east end of Concourse B. That means there is a good chance that the regional flights from ERI will operate from Concourse B, a short walk from the international lounges in A/B.
Historically, IAD has been one of the more difficult airports to get to from it’s city center. Located 25 miles from downtown Washington DC, Dulles is not the most convenient to get to via car and quite cumbersome via public transportation. Compared to the much closer Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) which is directly on multiple Metro lines, IAD requires a 15 minute bus ride to the closest Metro station and then a further 40 minute ride downtown.
While the distance to downtown won’t be changing, the ease of transit will significantly improve when the long anticipated Metro Silver Line extension is completed. The track will be extended to a station across from the main terminal at IAD, eliminating the need for a bus transfer. Unfortunately, the project has been underway for years and has experienced lengthy delays but is projected to finally open sometime in 2021. This could conveniently coincide with the start of ERI service.
It’s hard to talk about Dulles and not mention the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution. Udvar-Hazy is located on the grounds of IAD and accessible via bus from outside the main terminal. It opened to the public in 2003 as one of the premier aerospace museums in the country. It was built to house a multitude of aircraft and spacecraft that could not fit in the Smithsonian’s location on the Capital Mall. The center holds iconic aircraft such as the B-29 Enola Gay, Boeing 367-80, Concorde, SR-71 and the Space Shuttle Discovery orbiter. If you happen to be on a long layover at IAD and you’ve had enough of the lounges, Udvar-Hazy is a must see.
While United and IAD have their drawbacks, new service from a small regional airport is always a good thing. ERI adding flights to IAD increases connections for United and Star Alliance customers while the newer A/B Concourse has some of the best Priority Pass affiliates lounges in the US. The mass transportation improvements slated to go online next year will also improve those wishing to visit downtown Washington DC.
Furthermore like any new routes, if successful this may also pave the way for even more service from ERI.