Big changes are in the works at Dulles International Airport (IAD) outside Washington, D.C. This week, the airport’s governing body unveiled design renderings for a new, 14-gate concourse that will be a big part of United Airlines‘ operation at the airport in the coming years.

The new, 400,000-square-foot terminal “E” will essentially run parallel to a portion of Dulles’ C/D concourse building, where the bulk of United’s hub operation is concentrated today.

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However, it’s important to note that this new facility won’t actually replace the C/D concourse, though that facility is in need of a replacement.

In fact, this new midfield terminal building will simply replace the ground-level A-concourse gates currently used by United — frequently for flights operated by regional carriers flying as United Express.

DANIEL SLIM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

This project also won’t spell the complete end of Dulles’ notorious mobile lounges, or “people movers” — although it will help reduce the usage, according to leaders at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Regardless, it figures to be a significant improvement for passengers flying out of Dulles, or making a connection there on a United itinerary.

First look: The brand-new Capital One Lounge at Washington Dulles

New Dulles concourse design

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Designers for the new three-level terminal tried to incorporate imagery from the Washington metropolitan area, make use of greenery and natural light — and draw inspiration from Eero Saarinen, the famed architect responsible for the airport’s iconic main terminal building (not to mention the former TWA terminal, now the TWA Hotel, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport).

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As shown in renderings unveiled this week, passengers arriving at the concourse will notice a large wall of greenery, with sunlight pouring in through massive windows.

That’s after arriving at the concourse via the AeroTrain system, to which this new facility will connect.

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As you ride the escalators up to the main concourse level, there’s a mural depicting cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington, flanked by restaurants on both sides.

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The designs make clear there are plans for a new United Club at Dulles as part of this expansion.

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With United expected to be the main airline operating out of this building, the design renderings call for plenty of the airline’s signage and logos throughout.

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Altogether, it’s certainly a far better-lit, more airy and more spacious facility than the concourses United currently occupies at Dulles.

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Of the 14 new gates Dulles’ new concourse will support, seven will have the ability to accommodate wide-body aircraft — and each of those gates will also be set up to receive passengers arriving on international flights.

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If you fly out of Dulles in the coming months, you probably won’t notice too many changes at this terminal site; construction crews are just getting to work on the foundation. But passengers should notice the building “really come out of the ground” about a year from now, MWAA leaders said at a public meeting Wednesday.

The new E concourse is expected to be operational by 2026, a spokesperson told TPG on Wednesday.

Larger plans at Dulles

This new concourse is just one facet of significant changes planned over the coming years at Dulles.

The airport welcomed a record 9.3 million international passengers in 2023, and more growth is expected in the coming years.

“We don’t have enough gates out at Dulles,” MWAA CEO Jack Potter said at Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re talking about United Airlines growing at 50% in the not-too-distant future. So, as these new facilities are coming online, there will be passengers that will come with it.”

The main terminal at Dulles International Airport (IAD). SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY

The longer-term vision at the airport calls for a total replacement of United’s C/D concourse, which has long been needed.

So far, there are no formal plans or designs for such a facility, a MWAA spokesperson told TPG.

A new lease with airlines (most notably United) could lay the groundwork for any such project to move forward. Those talks are expected over the course of this year, after airport leaders Wednesday approved a new 15-year use agreement for Dulles and nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

Airport leaders Wednesday also noted the opening of United’s new E concourse could pave the way for the demolition of the aging regional A gates that the new concourse will replace — perhaps setting the stage for a future extension of the more modern A concourse used by a host of international airlines.

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