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Expansion plans at Dulles riding on new agreement with airlines

Airports Authority, airlines to negotiate on 15-year proposal

It passed below the radar screens of the traveling public, but the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on March 20 moved a major step forward in embarking on a new $9.4 billion capital-spending plan.

The authority’s board has given CEO Jack Potter permission to negotiate with the airlines a new 15-year use agreement.

“This is an extremely important agreement. It sets the stage for how we operate going forward,” Potter said. “We have seen growth, and we want to respond to that growth.”

The package is slated to supplant one ratified 10 years ago and set to expire Dec. 31, and would begin the next day. The planning effort has been ongoing since early 2022, and airlines are in agreement with the general terms, Potter told authority board members on March 20.

Having agreements with airlines in place will allow the authority to move ahead with plans for just under $7 billion in new capital projects at Washington Dulles International Airport and $2.4 billion at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Planning improvements range from new terminal and parking facilities to road improvements, runway paving and technology upgrades.

The proposal on the table gives passenger airlines the option of signing for 15 years or just three. Those taking the full term will pay less in landing and rental fees and have first choice in locating their facilities at the airports. (All cargo airlines would be required to sign for 15 years.)

Offering the shorter term would allow airlines that previously haven’t served Dulles and National to test-drive their options without a long-term commitment. Potter called this “a very effective tool in enabling growth.”