How The Removal Of One Gate Is Emblematic Of US Airport Transformations

In the United States, there is one gate that chills travelers to the bone. Both frequent and infrequent flyers recognize the iconic gate, and few enjoy the experience out of them. This is the notorious gate 35X at Washington-National, and it may soon be obsolete by April 20th. The removal of just this one gate shows how much US airports will transform over the next decade.

Reagan National New Concourse
The new 14-gate concourse at Reagan National will replace the infamous Gate 35X. Photo: MWAA – Project Journey

The notorious gate 35X at Washington-National

Arguably the most notorious gate in the United States, Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) will be getting rid of its Gate 35X. Previously expected to become obsolete later this year, that gate could now enter retirement from April 20th.

Gate 35X might draw some confusion from international passengers, but make no mistake, the gate is not a pleasant experience. Located in Terminal C, Gate 35X is not an authentic aircraft gate. Instead, it is a holding area accessed via an escalator going down where passengers are then bussed to an aircraft.

The gate has been so unappreciated by passengers that even the airport has poked fun at itself:

The gate is primarily used by American Airlines and sees a lot of the airline’s regional operations. Aircraft arrive at a stand away from the terminal, and passengers are bussed to and from the terminal. In all respects, it is one of the most hated experiences in the United States.

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Removing Gate 35X

In 2017, Reagan National moved toward finally eliminating Gate 35X. After receiving approval from the airport’s governing body, the airport began constructing a new 14-gate concourse that would replace the gate.

The new concourse would take over the area previously occupied by aircraft hangars and an office building. The 14 gates will all be equipped with jetbridges and better waiting areas than Gate 35X. In addition, there are plans for an upper-level space to contain a 14,000 square foot American Airlines Admirals Club.

Reagan National Getty
American is the largest operator at the airport and the primary user of Gate 35X. Photo: Getty Images

Just a few days ago, a construction update hinted that the gate could be open as soon as April 20th, assuming there are no delays to development. This means that regional flights out of DCA could get a much-upgraded experience.

Emblematic of US airport transformations

In 2014, then-Vice President Joe Biden compared New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to a third-world country. Former President Donald Trump in 2011 also compared LaGuardia Airport to a third-world airport. Since the middle part of the last decade, the goal has been to improve airports across the United States as much as possible.

LaGuardia is undergoing a multi-billion dollar redevelopment project. So far, the airport looks fantastic. The airport has opened several new gates recently and continues to push forward with the renovations.

LGA Airport
The new LaGuardia Terminal B. Photo: LaGuardia Airport

New York’s major international airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), is also undergoing a massive redevelopment project. JFK is undergoing a redevelopment that will make connections easier, streamline the airport’s layout, and create a true 21st-century experience.

Across the country, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is getting a redevelopment pushed by Delta Air Lines. The renovation of LAX has now been accelerated, and Delta plans to have completed its renovations by mid-2023, bringing it forward by a year.

Over in Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), another Delta hub, the carrier has moved over to a new concourse that just finished a massive redevelopment. The new SLC boasts a fantastic new Delta Sky Club and a modernized travel experience that will make flying so much easier.

SLC Airport
Salt Lake City is upgrading its airport. Photo: Salt Lake City International Airport

A hop away from Salt Lake City, Denver International Airport (DEN) just opened up the first four of 39 new gates for United. The airport’s new features include additional restrooms, a nursing room, a pet relief area, and an outdoor deck for passengers to catch some fresh air and take in the sights.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is also undergoing an $8.5 billion modernization project. The plan is to expand various terminals, including Terminal 5, to get new gates at the airport, expand security screening, add additional seating and lounges while ensuring efficiency for connections.

What do these renovations have in common?

JFK, SLC, DEN, LAX, LGA, ORD, and so many other airports have been open for a long time. Built when there were far fewer people flying than there are now, and are projected to be flying in a year, most of these airports are working with a footprint from the 20th-century to handle 21st-century passengers.

The goal for airlines today is to provide as premium and modern of an experience as possible. The goal is to get as many high-paying business customers to do their business with them and the travelers who fly in economy class to be willing to choose them in the future.

Outdoor deck
New features like this outdoor deck in Denver are designed to be used by all passengers. Photo: Denver International Airport

Airlines have done so by targeting a primarily premium experience. This includes cabins in the air and experiences on the ground. Look no further than American’s Flagship First Dining, which is catered to the most elite travelers.

To enhance the ground experience, all airlines have focused on fixing up their airports. And, over the course of this decade, JFK, LAX, LGA, and ORD are just some of the many airports that are getting facelifts and improvements that will, finally, modernize the flying experience and make US aviation a little more enjoyable.

The removal of Gate 35X at DCA shows that airlines and airports know that, to keep their passengers happy, they need to offer an enhanced experience that makes travel less stressful and more enjoyable. And, as a testament to this, loyal DCA flyers cannot wait to bid adieu to the dreaded Gate 35X.

Which of these new airports are you most excited about? Are you glad to see Gate 35X go out? Let us know in the comments!