Airport Confusion

This article (via Insty, as usual) made me chuckle.

Having three airports in Washington is great. Until you go to the wrong one.

Having a super-abundance of airports is considered a big-city perk in Washington, as in New York, London and other major hubs. But with greater choice comes a greater chance that you will find yourself at, say, National Airport while your flight is boarding at one of the other two, Washington Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington International Marshall.

Online search engines are making the confusion worse. Shoppers using the airport code WAS often get a mix-and-match low-fare flight that sends them out via one airport and returns them to another. Cars get stranded and, sometimes, so do fliers.
“We see people getting deals on the Internet and having no idea that DCA and IAD are two different airports 35 miles apart.”

That hasn’t happened to me, yet, with our Dallas-Fort Worth and Love Field airports, but it’s only a question of time. Their airport codes are DFW and DAL respectively, so there are any number of possibilities for someone to screw up eventually. And even though they’re relatively close together — 20 miles or so — the highways connecting them are among the busiest in the U.S. even without any road construction: and there’s always some construction going on somewhere.

With DFW, you absolutely have to have the correct terminal information — the gate number within the terminal is helpful, but you can get by without too much hassle if you don’t. I did have one airhead woman from New York ask me to take her to DFW, and when I asked her which terminal — sometimes that will determine whether you take the North or South entrances to the airport, even — she said brightly, “Oh, just drop me off anywhere in the airport; I’ll figure it out.”

Now let’s be honest: Evil Kim might just have dumped her at Terminal E (the most remote and also least-patronized of the terminals) and gone on his merry way, but this time the old rascal stayed in the background while I explained to Miss Upper East Side that this wasn’t LaGuardia (which is small because it’s squeezed into an island and against the sea), there is no pedestrian connection between terminals, and it could take her up to a quarter of an hour to get from one terminal to another at the far end of the place, if the inter-terminal rail- or bus service was working at its maximum efficiency. (Frequent visitors to DFW can stop laughing, now.)

And she had a large suitcase and carry-on bag. I could have sold tickets just for the entertainment value. Anyway, she looked it up and lo! Terminal A. So all ended well.

I myself have made the mistake (in my private, non-Uber capacity) of going to pick up people at DFW when they were in fact coming into Love Field — and only my memory saved it from being a total disaster, when I remembered, too late, that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t fly into DFW, only into Love Field. (They were relatives, so I didn’t get spit-roasted or impaled on a spike.) That said, I did make it from DFW to Love in record time…

One last funny story about the Dallas airports. Last week I arrived at a near-downtown hotel to pick up an older woman, and asked, “Love?” whereupon she smiled and said, “Maybe. You offering?”

I haven’t blushed like that since I was a teenager.

Afterthought for my International Readers:  if you’re arriving in DFW and flying on to another U.S. destination, always make sure that you flying into DFW and out of DFW (and not out of DAL). Also, when you book your ticket into DFW, make sure that your outbound flight is at least three hours after your scheduled arrival, because while international flights all land in Terminal D, your connecting flight can leave from just about any terminal in the airport. And you have to go through Immigration (a long wait), get your luggage off the carousel (an even longer wait) and then stand in a long line to re-check it for the domestic flight. Also, DFW has some of the worst signage of any Western international airport I’ve ever flown through, and their public “service” announcements in Baggage Claim usually sound as though someone’s gargling raw eggs through a fast-revolving tennis racquet, delivered (usually) by someone who sounds retarded, speaking with an incomprehensible Hispanic- or Ebonics accent because diversity.

My advice is to connect through Atlanta’s Hartsfield (ATL), as long as you know that Delta flies into both DFW and Love Field. I hope this helped.


  1. Excellent advice about DFW and knowing the terminal and gate. Living in Dallas for 25 years, not far from Love Field, and working my last four years out by the South entrance to DFW I was in the outbound NASCAR race every morning going to work, 75 mph three lanes wide and about one car length separation which was great because everyone was on a mission. Inbound in the mornings were clogged and crawling driving into the sun. Evenings we reversed course.

    As for the Terminals, I was flying through recently opened DFW in the early 70’s when my tickets had been booked on different airlines. I needed to get clear across the airport to a different terminal, really stupid ticket booking by travel agent, the shuttles were not working very well so I took a cab. The cab driver started to give me crap because he would have to go to the back of the line and being in a hurry, I pulled out $40 and asked if that would buy a trip into Dallas, he said sure, $20 would do it and I said then take the $40 and get me across the airport, and he did.

  2. I’m not the stupidest guy in the world but in 2009 I went to the wrong London airport. My wife and I were on a whirlwind tour of Europe – the UK, Switzerland, 3 different German cities, France and Spain, to see my aunts and uncles after my father’s death, to give them small gifts from his will, say hi and drop off 1/2 of his ashes in his home town.

    On stop 1, the UK, I had booked a flight into LHR and out the next morning from LGW. We rented a car, navigated to Hindhead, had a nice visit with auntie and cousins, a sort of a wake, got up early next day and drove madly back to LHR instead of LGW. Why? Tired, jet-lagged, disorganized, slightly stupid and confused, all of the above.

    Didn’t figure it out until I complained at the airline counter that our preprinted boarding passes were being rejected by the reader. Oopsie, felt stupid.

    A very kind Brit counter guy said it happened all the time, got us a partial refund, walked us over to the Swissair counter and talked them into a discount flight for us.

  3. Had a business trip to Chicago. Meeting was near Midway so we all agree to fly there. My boss was flying in from another trip and asked me to pick her up. Drove back over to Midway and couldn’t find her – because she was at O’Hare.

  4. Hmph. Anyone who can’t tell Dulles, National, and BWI apart has no business flying. I’ve changed flights in DFW fairly often. It’s not bad, but those electric carts were a plague. But you did have to allow at least an hour to change flights.

  5. I’ve gotta question for a local….thinking of flying in for the NRA Annual Meeting in May. It is going to be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Ctr. Hotels are close by. Which airport is best to fly in to ?

  6. Flew through Dallas once, a long long time ago in the pre-747 era.
    It was a one-stopper from Atlanta to L.A., and I was a civilian again (but still in uniform for that flight home). Thankfully, I never had to get off the plane and relinquish my “stand-by” 1st-class seat – I was probably too soused to get down the boarding stairs, let alone back up again.

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