GW students are changing travel plans because Reagan National airport, the hub of D.C. shuttle service to Boston and New York City, remains closed for security precautions.
National is the most popular airport for downtown D.C. residents largely because of the popular shuttle service offered by Delta Airlines and US Airways. It is the only airport in the country still closed after the hijackings.
Federal officials closed the airport immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon because of “national security concerns related to the Washington, D.C. area,” according to a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority press release. The federal government will determine when, or if, the airport will re-open.
The airport was closed because of its close proximity to the White House, Pentagon and other government sites.
More than two million passengers flew shuttles last year from National to Logan Airport in Boston and La Guardia Airport in New York.
The situation has left many students in D.C. and GW aggravated but understanding.
“The best thing about the shuttle was its convenience,” said freshman Matt Krouner, who is from the Boston area. “It is going to be a lot more difficult to get a good flight home now, but I completely understand the concerns that made (the government) close National.”
Delta and US Airways now runs the shuttle service out of Dulles International Airport in Virginia with fewer flights, according to the MWAA.
According to the US Airways Web site, four flights will now fly daily to Logan and La Guardia from Dulles as opposed to the 17 flights scheduled before Sept. 11.
Delta now offers five daily weekday shuttle flights and eight weekend flights to New York out of Dulles. The airline used to fly about every hour out of National.
It costs $1.10 and takes 10 minutes to get to National on the Metro, compared to the 40-minute trip students now have to take to Dulles at a cost of $30-$50 for a shuttle or taxi ride.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport is another option for students as it is one of the fastest growing airports in the country. In July, BWI handled more than 65,000 passengers a day while Dulles handled 55,000 passengers followed by National with 45,000.
BWI is accessible using MARC trains that leave from Union Station. The trains run hourly and cost $8.75 for a round-trip ticket.
Many students said they purchased tickets before Sept. 11 to fly out of National.
“(National) was convenient,” junior Andrew Stone said. “I understand the potential security risk, but it is a huge economic engine for the city.”
Stone said he usually flies home to Boston with the US Airways shuttle out of National but will temporarily fly through BWI.
“I have to go to the Delta office and a get a whole new flight plan,” freshman Trina Bolton said. “I wish I could just fly out of National.”
Other students who live close to D.C. said they will use other modes of transportation.
“Normally I would take the shuttle to Newark, but this weekend I will take a train back to New Jersey,” sophomore Melissa Raiken said.
GW will provide free bus transportation for students back and forth to BWI and locations in New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania this weekend. Specific times and locations are available online at gwired.gwu.edu.
The closing of the airport affects passengers, airport employees and local businesses alike.
“There are 45,000 passengers a day that go through National, serviced by more than 10,000 employees,” said Tara Hamilton, public affairs manager for MWAA.
Hamilton said 900 flights a day take off and land at National, generating about $5 billion a year and $200 million to the local economy through taxes.
– Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.