The Dulles International Airport (IAD) Guide


Dulles International Airport (IAD) is one of three airports servicing the U.S. capital. It is situated about 26 miles outside Washington, D.C., in the Northern Virginia suburbs.

Compared to its counterpart in Virginia, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Dulles’ footprint is at least 12 times larger, sitting on more than 11,000 acres.

Washington-Dulles is known for its vast international flight options, for being a major United Airlines hub, and for its iconic main terminal, designed by well-known architect Eero Saarinen (the same architect who brought the New York-JFK terminal that’s now the TWA hotel to life).

Washington-Dulles is comprised of a main terminal building which features ticketing, security and a small set of “Z” gates, plus baggage claim and customs on the bottom floor.

There are two separate midfield terminals that run parallel to the main terminal: one long building housing the A and B concourses, and another housing the C and D concourses.

Map of IAD terminals

Dulles Airport main terminal

The Washington-Dulles main terminal building is the immediately-recognizable structure most people think of when picturing the airport, with its vaulted ceiling and all-glass facade.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

Inside, the building is huge, spanning 1.1 million square feet, and is close to a quarter-mile in length.

The main terminal is divided two floors: departures upstairs and arrivals downstairs.

Upper level

Inside the main terminal on the upper level, there are four large islands with ticket counters for domestic and international airlines.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

All passengers pass through security in the main terminal, so if you’re a Clear member, you’ll be able to use the service no matter which airline you’re flying.

The standard TSA checkpoint is downstairs.

Once you pass through security, you’ll catch the Aerotrain or people movers to your specific departure terminal.

Downstairs

Downstairs on the arrivals level is baggage claim with 15 carousels, as well as the airport’s customs facilities, which include Global Entry access.

Food options

  • Pre-security: Cafe Americana, District Chophouse, Capitol Gounds Coffee.

Retail

  • International Currency Exchange, Dulles Gourmet Market.

Lounges

The main terminal building houses a brand new Capital One Lounge just beyond the TSA PreCheck lanes.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

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Since Dulles operates out of three main terminal buildings, travelers have to take transportation to move between each.

Aerotrain

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

The most convenient option is the Washington-Dulles Aerotrain, an automated train system that runs between a few of the terminals. It’s usually a quick ride, with a maximum of two minutes between stations.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

You can take the Aerotrain if you have a flight in the A gates, B gates or C gates. However, note that it is a decent walk from the station to the C gates.

People movers

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

One of Dulles’ best-known quirks is its “mobile lounges,” or “people movers.” These Star Wars-esque machines haven’t entirely been phased out with the Aerotrain.

Inside, the people movers feel like a combination of a waiting room and a bus, and they take passengers from one terminal to another.

You’ll typically ride the people movers if you’re:

  • Flying out of the D gates (one of United’s concourses). 

  • Connecting between United’s D gates and Terminal A (gates A1A through A6F).

  • Arriving on an international flight to get to the customs area in the main terminal.

Passenger walkway

If you’d rather get some steps in, there’s also a 1,000-foot underground pedestrian walkway that connects the main terminal with Concourse B, featuring moving sidewalks in both directions.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

Airlines

  • United (regional United Express flights, gates A1A through A6F).

  • International airlines occupy the main portion of terminal.

Lounges

  • Air France Lounge, near gate A20.

    • Open daily from 10:30 a.m. until last flight

  • Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, across from gate A32

    • Open starting around four hours before Virgin Atlantic flights.

Other amenities

  • International Currency Exchange.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

Airlines

  • International carriers like Aer Lingus, ANA, Lufthana, TAP Air Portugal and others. 

Lounges

  • British Airways Lounge, located near Aerotrain station: Open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

  • Lufthansa Business Lounge, located across from gates B49 and B51: Open 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. Priority Pass eligible.

  • Turkish Airlines Lounge, located next to gate B43: Open 7:15 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. Priority Pass eligible.

Other amenities

  • Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

  • Commanders Burgundy & Gold Club.

  • Estée Lauder / M.A.C. Flag World.

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(Photo by Sean Cudahy)

Airlines

Lounges

United has four lounges in Concourse C:

  • A United Club near gate C4: Open 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. daily.

  • A United Club near gate C7: Open 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.

  • A United Club near gate C17: Open 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.

Other amenities

  • Devil’s Backbone Taproom.

  • International Currency Exchange

Airlines

Lounges

  • United Club near gate D8: Open 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.

  • International Currency Exchange.

A ‘bonus’ concourse of sorts, Dulles has a small handful of Z gates located in the main terminal building. A mix of airlines service these gates, and the only food and beverage options are Dunkin and Subway.

Washington-Dulles has several parking options. The priciest are right near the terminal and in garages, and the most affordable is a cheaper, satellite economy lot requiring a shuttle. You can reserve your parking online or take your chances of finding a free spot at the airport.

Terminal parking

  • Located just in front of terminal.

  • $29 per day or $6 per hour.

  • Follow covered walkway to terminal (brief walk).

  • There’s an additional “Valet” parking option for $39 per day that allows convenient pickup in front of the terminal parking lot for ultra convenience.

Garage 1 or Garage 2 Parking

  • Parking garage close to terminal.

  • $21 per day or $6 per hour.

  • Walk to the terminal via an underground or covered pedestrian walkway or take a shuttle.

  • Garage 2 is the most convenient for international departures.

Economy parking

  • Shuttle service runs every 15 minutes. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of travel time to the terminal.

To get to and from the rental car facilities, you’ll have to take one of the airport’s free shuttle buses, a few minutes’ ride.

Dulles has most major rental car companies, including:

Dulles has direct access to the Washington Metro system via the Silver Line station. It’s located opposite the main terminal, across the terminal parking parking facilities. You’ll take an underground path with moving walkways to get to the Silver Line station.

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From there, you can catch a Metro train that will take you through Tyson’s Corner, and eventually through Rosslyn and into downtown D.C. Metro’s trip planner shows it’s a ride of more than 50 minutes to Metro Center, a key connecting station in downtown D.C.

Check Metro’s website for information on hours of operation and fares.

Customers hoping to use a rideshare service like Uber and Lyft when they get off the airplane can be picked up on the arrivals level outside baggage claim outside Doors 2, 4 and 6.

(Top photo courtesy of Sean Cudahy)

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