The new terminal will house most of the airlines, however, including US Airways, the airport's largest carrier. It operates 177 flights a day at National -- 94 jets including its Shuttle service to New York and Boston, and 83 commuter flights -- compared with 76 jet flights and 68 commuter flights at BWI. National's modernization could affect BWI, where significant growth in recent years has been fueled by a boom in Washington area passengers. Nearly a third of all passengers using BWI come from the Washington area. "Now some Maryland folks who have access to the Metro and may have gone to BWI by car may go to National," Stempler said.
And US Airways passengers at BWI, aggravated by flights that connect in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, could find National's nonstop flights worth the drive.
But BWI officials predict that National's growth will come at the expense of Dulles, 20 miles away. "If there is increased use at National, it will come much more out of Dulles traffic than BWI's," said Jay Hierholzer, associate administrator for marketing and development at BWI.
Last year, National handled 15.2 million passengers, compared with 13.4 million at BWI and 12.8 million at Dulles. By the time all the renovations are completed in 2002, National could handle 19 million.
Because of National's shorter runways and federal law, the number of flights and the types of jets are restricted. By law, no more than 37 jets can operate each hour. Planes also cannot fly more than 1,250 miles nonstop from National.
"Dulles is the growth airport," said Hamilton. "National will stay pretty much the same."
While construction has not increased the number of gates, some civic activists fear that the more spacious terminal will prompt Congress to ease some of the restrictions. "There already has been some effort to increase the flights," said Janson. "We're definitely concerned."
Pub Date: 7/27/97