For the first time since the airport updated its layout to move more public space behind the security checkpoints, I had a chance to fly out of Ronald Regan Washington National Airport (DCA). I’m not a big fan of the new layout, though I guess I will get used to it…
I Found The New Washington National Airport Layout More Time-Consuming
DCA, which locals just call National Airport, has always been one of my favorite airports in the nation. The approaches over Washington, DC are amazing and the airport is very convenient for those in the District and the surrounding suburbs of Northern Virginia.
The airport itself is beautiful as well (you might enjoy this photo essay I compiled) and for years, it has been somewhat unique in that much of the common areas (with shops and restaurants) were on the “landside” instead of the “secure” side (meaning, before security).
But in order to “streamline” operations, the airport underwent a big change during the pandemic and in 2021 opened two large new centralized screening checkpoints in Terminal 2, one on the north side and the other on the south side. The idea was to make security more efficient than the old pier approach in which you only had access to the narrow band of gates your flight was departing from.
But I found the new approach involved quite a bit more walking and did not seem to save me any time.
Our driver dropped us off outside the Delta signs in front of Terminal 2, which is the largest terminal. Inside, we were about 3/4 of the way to north checkpoint, so we walked to the far north end of the terminal, proceeded down a pair of escalators, then had another decent walk to actually reach the front of the checkpoint. The line itself was empty, but we had to go through a maze of belt stanchions to reach the front.
Once through security, we found our Delta flight was departing from the other end of the airport and the walk south, even at a healthy clip, took over 12 minutes.
Even the next day (after our delay) we walked directly to the south security checkpoint but still found that quite a walk from where the shuttle dropped us off and the setup is just annoying: even if you avoid the stanchion maze you still find yourself going back and forth from the security entrance to the line entrance to the checkpoint and metal detector itself.
I’m sure we will get used to the new layout, but I am not a fan…I found it less efficient than the old system, even though there are advantages to having access to all gate areas once you clear security.
For me, it was just one trip: some of you have to deal with DCA every week. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the security checkpoint changes at DCA.