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6 Reasons I Always Fly into Reagan Airport When Visiting Washington, D.C.

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
Edited by: Stella Shon
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Stella Shon

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If you’re flying into Washington, D.C., you’ll have 3 airports to choose from: Dulles International Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

While each airport has its own pros and cons, Reagan Airport is easily the best airport to fly into when visiting the city in my opinion — here are 6 reasons why.

1. Proximity to Washington, D.C.

Reagan Airport is a stone’s throw away from the city center of Washington, D.C. Depending on your approach to the airport, you may even see the nation’s capital and monuments directly out your window seconds before landing.

DCA Metro with Sign
DCA’s Metro Station is located right at the main terminal building.

It can take around 15 minutes to get into the city by car, depending on traffic, and the same time when using the Metro. No matter which option you choose, Reagan Airport is, by far, the closest of the 3 major airports to Washington, D.C.

2. More Metro Options

Reagan Airport is served by the Blue and Yellow Metro lines, offering far more choices for getting where you need to go. Compare that to Washington-Dulles, which is only served by the Silver Line.

The Yellow Line is the fastest option into Washington, D.C., and will take you toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Blue Line will go via Rosslyn (Arlington) and then around, serving stops near the Kennedy Center, George Washington University, Georgetown, the White House, and more before heading to Largo, Maryland.

Hot Tip:

If you’re an iPhone user, you can quickly add a Metro Card to your Apple Wallet and then add funds to that to use on the Metro without buying a physical card at the station.

3. More Shuttles and Increased Frequency

Reagan Airport offers the most “shuttle” flights of the Washington, D.C. area airports. While the term “shuttle” is no longer used, it refers to the regular flights between Washington, D.C., to major cities like Boston, New York City, and Chicago for many years.

If you need to head to any of these cities, you’ll have the most options out of Reagan Airport from several domestic airlines.

4. Walkability

Reagan Airport is one of the few airports in the country that you can actually walk to. Yes, walk to.

From Reagan Airport to the nearby area of Crystal City, it’s about a 15-minute walk, which is mostly flat. Exit by the Terminal A baggage claims and then follow the signage to Crystal City. While it will be annoying with a lot of luggage, it’s a very easy walk, and you’ll often see flight attendants and pilots who live nearby do that walk to get to and from the airport.

From Crystal City, you can head into the nearby area of Pentagon City, about a 30-minute walk from the airport. You’ll find the Amazon and Boeing headquarters, as well as the large Pentagon City Mall, and then, just beyond that, the Pentagon itself. There aren’t many airports in the U.S. you can actually walk to.

5. Ease of Use

Flying into or out of Reagan Airport is a breeze — you can be inside within minutes from check-in to security and your gate. The airport is large enough to handle thousands of passengers daily but has a small-town feel, so you can be past security quickly.

DCA American Eagle Plane
An American Eagle plane parked at Washington Reagan Airport.

Once you exit the plane, baggage claim is right downstairs (or by ticketing in Terminal A), and you’ll be able to catch transport from there to wherever you’re going without hassle. If you’re flying into Washington-Dulles, you must take a train to the Main Terminal and then head to baggage claim and outside, which can be time-consuming.

6. Central to I-95

If you’re not staying in Washington, D.C., you’ll likely need to travel on I-95 to get where you’re going.

Reagan Airport is situated just a few miles off the highway, allowing you to head south towards Richmond or north towards Baltimore. If you don’t live in the area, it’s a much better-located airport, so you can quickly get on this essential highway and drive to where you need to go.

Why DCA Might Not Be the Best Airport for You

I’ve listed a bunch of reasons why I prefer to fly to Reagan Airport, but there are, of course, some reasons why you may not want to:

  • Longer cross-country flights are limited due to perimeter restrictions, so you’ll likely need to connect when flying into Reagan Airport.
  • Reagan Airport is not served by any wide-body aircraft, so DCA isn’t for you if you like to fly on bigger planes.
  • Reagan Airport has limited international flights, with only a few exceptions to places with pre-clearance options. Washington-Dulles will be your best bet if you’re looking to fly internationally.

Final Thoughts

If you have a choice of airports when flying into Washington, D.C., and don’t specifically need to be out by Washington-Dulles or up by Baltimore/Washington, Reagan Airport is the one for you. It’s the closest airport to the city, and you’ll be within the District in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to fly into Ronald Reagan or Dulles?

Both airports serve a different purpose, and you won’t be able to catch many international flights out of Reagan Airport, but if you’re headed into Washington, D.C., Reagan Airport is the closest possible airport.

Are DCA and Reagan Airport the same?

Yes, they are referring to the same airport, formally known as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Why is DCA not an international airport?

Reagan Airport does not have a Customs and Border Protection facility, so it cannot accommodate inbound international passengers and large widebody jets due to the length of the runways.

What airline is Reagan airport a hub for?

American Airlines operates a hub out of Reagan Airport at Washington, D.C.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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