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Washington Dulles Airport

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Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Queuing Times 12345
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3/10
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6/10

"not great, but not bad either"

(United States)

Verified Review | As some other commenters have noted, Dulles was designed for a different model of operations than most subsequent airports, and the efforts to integrate the design of the airport with current practices can be very awkward. Dulles is a distinctive airport in many ways, so much so that it presents significantly different experiences, based on the particular type of flight you're on, as I'll elaborate on below. For the aspects of travel that are universal regardless of type of flight (check-in, security, parking, etc.), it's decent overall. The new(-ish) train is a big improvement on the old "mobile lounges" (which are still used to concourse D, though), I've had mostly pleasant and efficient experiences with check-in, and have even been pleasantly surprised by the speed at security on some occasions. For getting to the airport via car, you definitely need to be aware of traffic and plan travel times accordingly - I've had many painless experiences, but if it's around rush hour, beltway traffic can be ghastly (though the Dulles Access Road itself is usually fine). For domestic flights, Dulles has the best selection of non-stop long-haul flights of the 3 DC-area airports, and it's generally an acceptable experience, concourse A/B is a lot nicer than C/D, though. For myself, if it's a choice between a non-stop from Dulles or a flight with a connection from another airport, I'll take the non-stop from Dulles; if the choice of flight is otherwise equivalent, though, both BWI and DCA are more pleasant options. For departing international flights, the experience is essentially like that for domestic flights - not great, but not bad either. For arriving international flights with Dulles as the final destination, it's below average. The mobile lounges to get to immigration & customs are always inconvenient and almost invariably crowded. I've had both good and bad experiences with the speed of immigration and customs, but the wait for luggage is usually short (if immigration is slow, there might be no wait at all). Since Dulles has the vast majority of international flights of the DC-area airports, if DC is one's point of origin/destination, there usually isn't a choice about which airport to arrive at. For arriving international flights when DC is NOT the final destination, avoid Dulles at (almost) any cost. The slowness and inconvenience of the mobile lounges, unpredictable time for immigration/customs, and the possible need to then take another train/bus to get to the concourse for your connecting flight must be incredibly stressful. To summarize: Dulles is acceptable for domestic flights and international departures, below-average for international arrivals with Dulles as final destination, and to be avoided if at all possible for international arrivals with subsequent connections.
Experience At AirportArrival and Departure
Date VisitJuly 2016
Type Of TravellerSolo Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
yes
1/10

"cumbersome painful to a nightmare"

(United States)

I moved to DC 3 years ago and have used Dulles more than a dozen times. The international operation is the worst I've ever seen in any civilized country. Coming into Dulles from abroad ranges from cumbersome painful to a nightmare. The whole thing is a hymn to inefficiency and unreasonable design: first people are stuck until saturation into the oddest transportation buses I'm aware of to transfer to another terminal. After many hours of traveling the packing and smell and everything is the least welcoming feeling possible. And one wonders if this is just by coincidence, as to GET to the terminal there is a civilized underground train! That apparently only works in one direction! Then the customs! I've spent between 1 (at least) to more than 5 hours to go through customs. Having a H1B usually my interaction time with the TSA officer is about 10 minutes, so the rest is just standing in line. And after luggage collection, another control (for what?) that can take another 5-60 minutes. I never came out of Dulles with less than one and half hour after getting to the gate. Coming and going for 3 years I'm always hoping that this can only be temporary, there is no way the capital of the US can have such an inefficient, outdated and outright disorganized airport (yes, disorganized, the airport people knows how many flights are coming with how many people, why don't they get enough officers to get things working properly?). But nothing changes. Right now I'm waiting for my wife and our 4 month old kid. They landed 4 hours ago, and no one knows what in earth is happening inside. There is people around waiting for 3-4 hours as well. No official or voluntary personnel answers any question, and there are no instances or authorities to recur too. I travel through JFK, Newark, Boston, LAX, Baltimore, and nothing, but nothing, compares to this.
Experience At AirportArrival and Departure
Date VisitAugust 2016
Type Of TravellerBusiness
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
no
1/10

"mobile lounges obsolete, unwelcoming, inefficient"

(United States)

I'm fly internationally through Dulles almost every week and the thing that I truly, deeply hate is the "mobile lounge" system for international arrivals. I want some rational explanation of why this obsolete, unwelcoming and inefficient system was not modernized together with other updates to the airport some years ago. If there is a train to take passengers to the terminals, why isn't there a train to bring passengers from the terminals? Specific complaints about the mobile lounges - if they must exist, they should at least be designed to load passengers on a first-in, first-out basis. That way, the first people entering the vehicle wouldn't crowd around the entrance, blocking it for others. There should at least be different lounges for business and first-class passengers. Part of what business and first class passengers pay for is the privilege of being first off the plane and thus first into Immigration - the mobile lounges make this impossible. I often take a flight that arrives at Dulles past midnight, and I am often the first person off the plane. But the mobile lounge waits for the entire flight to be loaded, and then even waits for the crew. At that time of night, this delay is inexcusable. Many other airports have expedited lines or services for business and first class passengers, so why doesn't Dulles? If they must exist, they should at least be designed to accomodate the carry-ons everybody uses now - the aisles are absurdly narrow. If they must exist, there should at least be courteous, multilingual staff helping people navigate the absurdity instead of the barking drivers who simply yell "move back" when the inevitable blockage occurs - it's rude, unpleasant, gives a poor first impression of our country to foreign visitors, and is unintelligible to visitors who do not speak English.
Experience At AirportArrival Only
Date VisitAugust 2016
Type Of TravellerSolo Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages N/A
no
5/10

"airport is not consistent at all

(United States)

Departure was a smooth experience, as security was very quick as it wasn't a busy time. However, arrival wasn't as smooth, as ground staff gave us our baggage an hour after our arrival, leaving many, if not all, passengers on the flight worried about baggage, not to mention that it was the closest gate to the main terminal where the baggage claim is. When we asked the "information" person where our bags were, he had no clue, and when we asked him about what we could do, he still had no idea. Why? He was a "volunteer" and only knows about hotels. He said that the airline's counter was closed (which isn't surprising as it was midnight) so nobody knew what to do. Finally we got our bags. To put a person who knows nothing about the airlines or the airport shows high incompetence and it seems that they should at least create a seperate booth labeled "Hotel Information", let alone get staff that actually know how to deal with passengers' situations. Dulles isn't the best airport, but not the worst. It has it's ups and downs but the airport is not consistent at all.
Experience At AirportArrival and Departure
Date VisitJuly 2016
Type Of TravellerFamily Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Staff 12345
no
2/10

"an awful experience"

(Belgium)

We had a 4 hour transit from our flight from Brussels to NY. The bus which took us from the airplane to main building was old and slow. Upon arrival we had to line up for over 1 hour for the immigration process. After that we had to line ip again for security check. We couldn't connect to the wifi. It was an awful experience.
Experience At AirportArrival Only
Date VisitJune 2016
Type Of TravellerBusiness
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
no
7/10

"security procedures labyrinthian"

(United States)

When Washington Dulles was opened in 1963 it was a pioneer of the jet age, located on a huge tract of land that could easily handle ground operations and all kinds of weather and an iconic architectural masterpiece of a terminal. "Mobile lounges," giant people movers, were meant to move passengers from close-in gates directly to their planes. When Dulles opened, the walking distance from check-in to plane was never more than 400 feet. That was before mass travel. All of the original elements operate against the new airport, so walking distances are long and security procedures labyrinthian. And let's not even talk about parking. Check-in is straightforward and security lines work well if you have TSA Pre-Check, less well if you're an ordinary flyer. Aerotrain services to the midfield terminals are good, but the C-Concourse station is built where the new terminal will be someday and not where the existing concourse sits. That gives you a quarter-mile walk to your concourse followed possibly by a lengthy walk to your gate. Aerotrain stops at Concourses A and B are much better. Food, beverage and shopping services are very much improved and are quite good these days. Gate hold areas are inadequate. Arrival is more straightforward than departure. Concourses A, B and C are connected to the main terminal by frequent Aerotrain service - Concourse D uses the less comfortable and outmoded mobile lounges. The only problem with Concourse C (United Airlines) is the long walk from the existing midfield terminal to the Aerotrain station, located where the permanent terminal will go when they finally build it. All arrivals come into a central area from which you may have a healthy walk to your baggage claim carousel. Baggage claim at Dulles typically takes somewhat longer than at many airports, partly due to the stances between the midfield terminals and the baggage claim area. Parking at Dulles is abundant but located a long way from the main terminal. Taxi and SuperShuttle queues are reasonably short usually. There will be a Metro stop at the airport but that's a few years away. Meanwhile, taking the Metro also involves a (not free) shuttle to the nearest Metro station.
Experience At AirportDeparture Only
Date VisitMay 2016
Type Of TravellerCouple Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
yes
1/10

"47 minutes to get through security"

(Switzerland)

Washington Dulles airport was awful. I flew from London with BA - the airline was great but immigration (I am a US citizen) for entry took 45 minutes as the the biometric photo reading in the US/Canadian/ESTA line hadn't worked. On the way out back to London, it took 47 minutes to get through security. The staff were just standing around and didn't seem to know what they were doing - they were rather rude, officious and as far as I could see completely incompetent. At London Heathrow with the same equipment and security, I was processed in 2 minutes. Dulles, 47 minutes. This is typical for the USA. We need to do a lot better in the future.
Experience At AirportArrival and Departure
Date VisitMay 2016
Type Of TravellerBusiness
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
no
6/10

"very poorly designed"

(Japan)

This airport has everything an airport needs, but it is very poorly designed. The terminals are far apart and aside from taking the internal shuttle you need to go up and down enormous escalators in order to access elevated walkways that connect different buildings. Also, they use very strange truck-like buses that can be raised off the ground like a crane in order to reach the doors of the terminal buildings. These vehicles are bulky and and militaristic. They look like they were designed by soviet engineers. The US has pretty bad airports on a global standard, so Dulles is still a decent airport in the US.
Experience At AirportTransit
Date VisitJanuary 2016
Type Of TravellerSolo Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages N/A
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
yes
4/10

"how can it be so bad"

(United States)

It amazes me how one busiest and largest hub airports in the US can be so bad. Its a 45 minutes drive from the city, which = $80-$100 one way cab fare. The security lines. You could wait an unnecessary 30 minutes in these lines, due to inefficient management. Then once you are finally through the machines, you have to make your way through the maze of escalators and halls to get to the right train or bus-thingy to get to the correct terminal. My personal favorite is when you get off the train at Terminal C and you still have to walk 1/3 mile to get to the concourse. Then you have pray you took the correct turn to get to your gate. On the upside, it has some decent restaurants and shops.
Experience At AirportDeparture Only
Date VisitDecember 2015
Type Of TravellerCouple Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Shopping 12345
Wifi Connectivity 12345
Airport Staff 12345
no
7/10

"lines were relatively short"

(United States)

I was flying to Dulles and back from MSP (Minneapolis). The lines for checking in and security were relatively short, even though it was the week after the 4th of July. The only thing I'd have to say about Dulles is the amount of food options in the main building before the escalators to get up to Concourse A. The only food option is a Subway and possibly a Burger King if you want to eat a meal. There's a Dunkin Donuts for snack though.
Experience At AirportArrival and Departure
Date VisitJuly 2015
Type Of TravellerFamily Leisure
Queuing Times 12345
Terminal Cleanliness 12345
Terminal Seating 12345
Terminal Signs 12345
Food Beverages 12345
Airport Staff 12345
yes