When National Airport Puts Gate 35X Out of Its Misery, American May Start Flying Bigger Jets

This week American Airlines President Robert Isom spoke at the Cowen and Company Global Transportation Conference. I covered some of his remarks including the amount of additional award travel passengers are taking on their aircraft this year, bringing their average closer to what Delta and United offer.

Isom also spoke about their future at Washington National airport. While American has strategically grown at Los Angeles and Philadelphia (the latter trading off with shrinking at New York JFK), their focus going forward is largely on growth at their most profitable hubs. They have new gates that will be coming online at Dallas Fort-Worth and Charlotte over the next couple of years.

However Isom noted that Washington National is actually their third most profitable hub with a 13.1% operating margin. It’s the first time American has publicly grouped National airport alongside DFW (which is first) and Charlotte (which is second) in this way.

As part of ‘Project Journey’ the airport authority is building a new concourse that will replace the current hated gate 35X. Isom offered,

Today we have 14 gates that are restricted to 50-seat regional jets, when we get to the new regional terminal opening out into 2021, that will allow those 14 gates to handle up to 76 seaters

In fact these are not 14 ‘gates’ today these are 14 “remote aircraft parking positions served by buses from gate 35X” and they are not actually restricted to 50 seat aircraft.

However it does make sense to grow capacity – using larger regional jets – at National airport since they cannot legally add any flights and the flights they have are profitable.

American’s Shuttle Bus to Gate 35X at Washington National Airport

Marginal seats on certain routes should attract more passengers, and larger planes overall (together with the elimination of gate 35X) should make travelers stop hating regional jet travel on American Airlines from this airport so much.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I just love it when they pack 50 people on the bus and then wait 20 minutes with the doors open in 100 degree heat for no reason.

  2. You will still be on a 76 seater regional jet. DCA is a step child for ever due to short runway and limited space to park planes. This is not even close to the 100 seaters
    Only the gate and the great bus ride will be gone.
    One of the advantages of the bus ride was upon return one could exit quickly to the baggage claim area if one was returning to DC, but that is a minor loss compared to no more 35X and the bus rides

  3. Are there any other airports that you don’t use the correct name for it. And don’t give me the whole I’m from DC speech. Do you call JFK Idelwild? At what point will you call DCA Reagan. I know you may not agree on how it was named, but that is the offfial name.

  4. Let’s make Washington National GREAT!
    Given the expansions I’ve seen at FLL …when, it appeared, the airport was boxed in on all 4 sides by major highways …anything is possible…. eminent domain is an awesome weapon.

  5. Flying out of 35X at DCA is a miserable experience especially when the flights are delayed. Couple that with aging and beaten-up E145, and you have a reason to avoid such flights. This has been my strategy over the last two years.

  6. @Brian – this is not at all about any feelings towards Reagan (if you think I’m left of center, you’re mistaken). More often than not I refer to “Dallas Fort-Worth” as Dallas, and I never ever refer to ATL has Hartsfield-Jackson.

  7. I concur with Brian, and was going to post exactly what he said but he beat me to it. It is Reagan National. And most flyers call Dallas DFW.

  8. How ironic, the president who railed against big government gets a huge office building AND an airport in the capital city named after him! If any president deserves a capital airport named after him, it’s FDR! Or maybe even Jimmy Carter who deregulated the industry. But certainly not Ronny! It’ll always be Washington National to me too!

  9. The full official name may be Washington Ronald Reagan National airport, but nobody who is from there ever actually says Reagan. National and DCA are the most common, maybe a Reagan National. But not just Reagan. And @gary- I believe they’re building a new concourse. Not a new course.

  10. I’m looking forward to having security before the main concourse, so I can go to any restaurant I want. That is supposed to be completed before the 35x renovation. And I often call it Reagan.

  11. Not only do locals refer to it as “National” – but if you get in a cab and say you’re going to “Regan” you will invariably get the question of if you’re going to the building downtown or the airport.

  12. The formal official name is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, conveniently shortened to Washington National Airport, National Airport, or just National (which those of us from DC have called it for decades). The 1998 renaming by a Republican Congress was done without the consent of the region or the airport authority. Ironic, since Reagan was no fan of the federal government stomping on local jurisdictions. P.S. Dulles wasn’t a saint either.

  13. -I still call it the Tri-Borough Bridge. The bridged is a complex of three bridges connecting the three New York City boroughs of the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. Since it is going to QUEENs maybe they should rename it the Tr… Bridge.

    I mean rename it back to the Tri-Borough bridge: What did you think I meant?:)

  14. @Brian – The name of the airport is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, so it’s still perfectly acceptable (even under your reasoning) to call it National.

    I assume you don’t suggest calling the Triboro Bridge the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge or the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, for example.

  15. Just saying, but no one ever calls 6th Avenue in NYC “Avenue of the Americas,” which has been its official name for about 70 years.

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