I arrived at Dulles at about 6:30 AM for a 7:50 AM flight. I checked-in within two minutes at Delta's lovely new kiosks, and walked around the main terminal for a few minutes. Since the new security checkpoints opened up, the main terminal feels much more spacious and airy. I arrived at the airport extra early because I knew I wanted to take the AeroTrain around. It is very exciting when a construction project is going on for years and you get to experience a new people mover or airport terminal for the first time! Anyhow, this was not my first time using the new security checkpoint but it was my first time using the AeroTrain. I descended down the stairs to the checkpoint and found a super long line. I was a little surprised as it was about 6:45 AM. It was about 30 minutes before I cleared security. I was shocked as this is the longest I have waited at any airport in quite a while. They have plenty of room for extra TSA checkpoints down there; I don't know why they would invest millions in a new security area and then not have enough stations open to process passengers efficiently!
After clearing security, you take a short walk down to the AeroTrain platform. The train came fairly quickly and I headed towards Concourse C. It was a nice ride; the trains are very bright and modern. Very few seats, though the ride is quick. I would say it is a little nicer then the people mover at ATL. However, the walk to Concourse C once you exit is much longer than I expected. The moving walkway is not bad, but the inclined ramp to the moving walkway is a pain (at least in one direction). From exiting the train, it is at least a three to five minute walk until you get off the escalator in Concourse C. Unfortunately, since there are no plans to build the new midfield concourse anytime soon, it will be at least a decade of this setup for passengers using United Airlines. A shame really as the system is quite nice otherwise.
I walked back from Concourse C to the train again. It came fairly quickly again, and I took it to Concourse B (it made stops at Concourse A and then the Main Terminal on the way). I did not exit at Concourse A, but I understand that for passengers flying United Express, it is a real pain--up the escalator to the terminal, then up to bridge, then down to the concourse again. Until MWAA/United build the new midfield terminal and all of United's operations are under one roof, it will be a pain for all United passengers (it a schlep to the regional concourse A AND to concourse C). Once the train arrived at Concourse B, I exited and noticed that the escalators leading away from the platform were limited and narrow. As a result, there was quite a bit of crowding once the train doors opened and everyone flocked to the escalators. I guess the solution to this problem is to run more aeroTrains so that they are not as crowded all the time. However, it was a very quick walk/escalator ride up to Concourse B.
Overall, the train is a much needed step for Dulles. It is very convenient for the passengers on the ~30 airlines (excluding IAD's Hub carrier United) that fly to Dulles, although the underground walkway has been open for the last six years and has generally made Concourse B pretty convenient to get to. However, for the ~60% of Dulles passengers who use United, the AeroTrain is arguably less convenient than the old people movers. So I wonder if the investment was intelligent, at least in the short term. Perhaps it will give MWAA and United much-needed pressure to get serious about a new midfield Concourse that will replace Concourse C & D, and put all of United's operations under one roof. In a sense, only then will the AeroTrain project really be complete! But I am sure that many passengers have already complained about the schlep when using United Airlines.
I do hope the security wait was a one-time thing. It would be a shame if they do not use the new lovely security checkpoint more efficiently. I hope you enjoyed reading, and look forward to comments and observations.