When to show up for a 6:30 flight from DCA?
January 14, 2013 8:42 PM   Subscribe

I've got a 6:30 am flight from DCA this Wednesday. When do I have to show up? And how long will it take me via cab from Adams Morgan?

I normally try to get to the airport 90 minutes early to have enough time for security, pick up a magazine, grab a quick meal, etc. But I have a 6:30 am AirTran flight leaving DCA this Wednesday and given how early it is, I don't want to do anything else but arrive at the airport, go through security and get on the plane.

Is an hour, aka 5:30 am, fine? I would normally think it would be very light, but I don't know if DCA has lots of business travelers or whatever at that time. A factor is that this flight does seem to have left early* the last couple of days.

Also, I am coming from Adams Morgan (near 20th/Columbia avenues NW). I'm probably going to order a cab using Taxi Magic, which lets you order set taxi orders at 15-minute intervals (5, 5:15, 5:30, etc.). I want to schedule using the app because you can track the taxi coming in the app, and I don't want to spend time outside trying to hail one in the predawn cold. Given this scenario, what time would you recommend I get picked up? Is there any risk of traffic at this time of day? Google says 20 min from Adams Morgan to DCA, but I just want to confirm with local knowledge.

*There was a change on 1/6/13 from a scheduled departure time of 6:55 am to 6:30 am.
posted by andrewesque to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (9 answers total)
Are you checking bags, or getting your boarding pass at the counter? If so: I'm normally a cautious person when it comes to checking in, but you may want to call AirTran and see what time the check-in desk actually opens.

I've gone to the airport for early flights like this before, only to find that the desk itself was not open for a while.
posted by carter at 8:47 PM on January 14, 2013

Bah, can't believe I forgot to mention that. Not planning on checking bags.

Does AirTran have a machine I can use to print my boarding pass at DCA?
posted by andrewesque at 8:50 PM on January 14, 2013

If this were me, I would order a cab for 5am. DCA can get a decent number of mid-week business travelers, but I've never seen overwhelming lines.

(I've never used Taxi Magic - I just mean that I'd want a cab at 5am).

Realistically, I think that you'd probably make it at 5:15, but I couldn't recommend that. I'd give you better than even money on making your flight if the cab was moving at 5:30, but only just.

(all times above are times for leaving Adams Morgan, not arriving DCA).
posted by mercredi at 8:59 PM on January 14, 2013

Arriving an hour before your flight is fine at DCA at that hour of the morning. Get the cab at 5 AM. Don't freak out if it doesn't get there until 5:15. I prefer Uber to Taxi Magic, but it'll cost you a little more.
posted by fancypants at 9:05 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Security gates don't open at DCA until 5. Since you are on AirTrain, you are flying out of the old terminal, where security lines tend to be longer and slower moving than in the main terminal because there are fewer checkpoints. (As a reference point, it took me close to an hour to get through the lines in the old terminal for a 6am flight on December 23rd--Christmas rush. At other times at that hour, I've seen the line take anywhere from five to 30 minutes depending on how you hit it and luck.) I have always avoided the AirTran counter like the plague. At that time in the morning, the lines always seem to be really long, even to get to the self-serve kiosks (there may be more now--like I said, I haven't been near that counter since it went in). Like, I feel smug every time I see people standing in it as I breeze by directly to security long. If you really want to minimize your airport time, I'd figure out a way to check in online and print your boarding pass somewhere--friend's printer, hotel business center, something. Since you can check in in advance, theoretically you'll be near a hotel at some point 24 hours before your flight--many offer kiosks for check-in and printing free of charge and it shouldn't take more than five minutes. Just walk in and look like you belong. You'll have better luck with a bigger chain like Marriott or Hyatt.

So, to sum up: if you print your boarding pass beforehand and aren't checking bags, arriving at 5:30/45 should be ample time. Traffic should be light, so getting picked up at 5:15 or even a bit later should be more than fine. If you do not print your boarding pass out beforehand, I'd budget at least an extra half hour.

I believe the AirTran counter opens at 4.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 11:21 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding HonoriaGlossop, also make sure to stress to your cab driver that you are flying with AirTran and need to be dropped off at the old terminal.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:35 AM on January 15, 2013

just so you know, the old terminal is small and very easy to get thru quickly. I usually order my taxi the night before by just calling the company. since you are coming from AM I'd build more time in than just an hour - you never know what traffic is like and weather will be rainy. print your boarding pass out before you go.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 9:29 AM on January 15, 2013

Having lived in Adams Morgan and taken many a trip to the airport for early morning flights, I can answer this one! National is not bad that early in the morning, but I'm paranoid, so I'd get the taxi at 5:00 or 5:15, you should be at the airport in 15 minutes that early, unless you hit some strange snag in traffic. It's a straight shot down to the memorial bridge and onto Rte 1 or the parkway to the airport. Really easy!
posted by echo0720 at 4:43 PM on January 15, 2013

Thanks all for your input! I ended up ordering a cab at 5 am, which got me to DCA by 5:20 and then I breezed through security, sat around the terminal for half an hour and proceeded to immediately fall asleep on the plane.

In the future I'd probably order the 5:15 cab if I was doing this trip on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/weekend, and 5:00 on a Monday/Friday. (Not including holidays of course!)
posted by andrewesque at 5:10 PM on January 16, 2013

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