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Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 1:14 pm
I have not been in the original DCA main terminal in 15+ years.
Does anyone know if the Mezzanine area with seating is still open to the public?
This area faced the wall of windows that provided an open view of the ramp and runways.
This area was located directly over the EA ticket counters with an airport restaurant located at the far end.
I plan on being at DCA with a group of young aviators and thought they'd enjoy seeing/sitting in this area if still open.
Thanks to anyone who can help answer my inquiry.

Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 4:53 pm
by e38
Tom, the short answer is yes* the main lobby of the original terminal at DCA is still open and accessible to the public. There are still seats in the lobby and it provides a great view of the ramp area and runways. Also, I have noticed that very few people pass through the lobby since most folks go directly to the area serviced by their airline; i.e., Terminal A for Southwest, Air Canada, Frontier, and Sun Country, and Terminals B/C for all the other carriers. As a result, the original lobby is generally a nice and peaceful area just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the activity without interference from lots of other people. Of course, the original observation deck is not accessible; but the view is unobstructed and is very good and the area where the ticket counters were is now a wall with aerial photos of the airport through multiple stages of its development. The restaurant, of course, is also closed.

However . . . (and the reason for the asterisk), sometimes the lobby is closed off by a simple curtain with a sign that says, "Lobby closed for special event." in which case there is a by-pass corridor connecting Terminal A with Terminals B/C.

The problem can be that these events tend to be unannounced (although you may be able to contact someone at MWAA to determine if the lobby will be open or closed on a particular day). For example, when MWAA announced the expansion of Terminal C to the north, there was a big reception in the lobby, and periodically, I have seen the lobby used for military/USO/veterans receptions and special events.

I hope this helps.


Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:01 pm
That is awesome information so a big Thanks for your time and response.
We're there on a Saturday so maybe more shot at being open. Otherwise, we'll make use of the opportunity to see this historic location in the terminal.
I was based in DCA and spent hours in this area during layovers and delays. I drank many a cup of coffee accompanied by donuts from the airport restaurant seated there watching planes and people. And then went back to work or drove home to Arlington.
My 2nd favorite spot? Gravelly Point. A gazillion picnics on a blanket watching airplanes. If I took the dog to run and play I had to give him a bath once home due to engine soot in the grass and then on him.
Things to do for free when you're a poor military guy and then airline employee living in DC!
Thanks again for the info. I sincerely appreciate it.

Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:27 pm
by e38
Tom, inside the terminal there are a few alternatives for viewing the ramp and runways if the main lobby is closed:
1. The windows adjacent to the ticket counters for Air Canada, Frontier, and Sun County in Terminal A provide a good view of activity at the "banjo" concourse and landings on Runway 01.
2. The windows in the lobby of Terminal B provide a good view of Runway 19/1 and the alley: Delta, Virgin America, jetBlue, and some American; and
3. The windows in the lobby of Terminal C provide a good view of Runway 19/1 and the alley: American.
4. From the platform of Metro, you get a partial view of takeoffs and landings but the view is mostly obstructed by the terminal.
Also, the connector just south of the main lobby where you used to go downstairs to the Eastern and Allegheny ground level gates may still be open even when the main lobby is closed and has a decent view of the airfield.
5. Yes, Gravelly point is outstanding; particularly if DCA is landing south.
Have a good time.

Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 6:16 pm
Just a quick update for anyone traveling to or thru DCA that may want to visit the now "Historical Lobby" and Exhibit Hall.
This area is easily reached by foot from one end of the terminal to the other. We entered DCA from the AA concourse area and easily walked to the Main Lobby area inside the terminal, enjoying air conditioning with temps outside hovering at 100+degrees Saturday.
The upstairs Mezzanine level is now walled in with no access via the stairway. All stairways are closed off or access restricted to Airport Operations areas. Otherwise this area is open, and includes easy access to the Exhibit Hall just steps away.
All chairs and seating have been removed from the main Lobby which is now referred to as the "Historical Lobby", and the nearby Exhibit Hall has a collection of old photographs and displays on DCA's history dating back to the 30's. I wanted the Capital Airlines model 749 Constellation on display as my Dad worked for Capital at DCA in1958.
Great photographs of runway activity are available from this main Lobby area with ceiling to floor windows that defined this iconic terminal. My first flight from DCA was on an Eastern L-1049 to Bermuda in July 1958 and I returned to work in this terminal in 1969. Step outside the terminal doors for great photographs of the terminal and the "roundabout" that was used for passenger pickup and drop offs.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit back to this area and highly recommend it as a "must see" if time permits for a brief visit.

Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:59 pm
by UALFAson
Thanks for the follow up! I thought I had read on here a while back that the "historical lobby" had been closed to the public, which shocked and disappointed me, but I couldn't find anything on MWAA's web site. Good to know that is not the case!

I grew up near DCA and am just old enough to remember using the old main terminal before the 1997 replacement opened. Prior to 9/11, I would sometimes go over there and just wander around the different gates, collecting paper timetables, ticket jackets, and other collateral, in addition to watching the planes, many of airlines that have long since departed. Glad folks can still see the original building, even if it has been converted to essentially a glorified event space.

Re: Original DCA Main Terminal

Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:18 pm
by GGtai
DCA is a nice place. My uncle would fly (3 holer- 727) and park at the old terminal then the "new" TWA terminal and we would go pick him up and of course "tour" the cockpit, get freebie things like playing cards, wings, etc. Gravelly Point was our family frequent Sunday afternoon hang out.