Today's release of our schedules and fares into our newest airport, Washington Dulles ("IAD"), reminded me that our initial announcement that we would be entering the IAD market raised a lot of questions from Employees and from other Southwest stakeholders. Along with several of my fellow Employees, I visited IAD the evening of and morning after that April 4th announcement to get a closer look at our newest addition. I will share what I found, setting the table with a little personal history.
The IAD Economy
I had last set foot at IAD mid-August 1989, under less than happy circumstances. I was about to be fired from a previous career, but that's a story for another day. What that experience left in my mind, though, was a blurry image of IAD and its market that was almost 17 years out of date. What I saw in early April brought IAD into focus for me.
Although our market research had prepared us for IAD's expansive market growth, the sight of all that development was greater than I had expected. You probably know all the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce factoids, so I'll spare you those, and instead try to paint you a picture. As we drove along the Dulles Access Highway from the Capital Beltway to IAD, we found ourselves in what I can best describe as the capitalist equivalent of the Grand Canyon – mid-rise office complexes housing AOL on one side, Nextel on the other, then Oracle, MCI, Symantec, and so on for practically the entire 13-mile drive. What the Colorado River had done in northern Arizona, the American economy had, in its own way and in slightly less time, done in northern Virginia.
And I came away with one other, lingering impression about IAD. With apologies to The Chairman of the Board (Sinatra, that is, not our own Herb Kelleher), if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere.