Inaugural Visitors Land at Area Airports
REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT -- The first big crowd to hit Reagan National Airport showed up just after 1 p.m., when several hundred students from a youth inaugural conference landed at the same time.
They packed into the United baggage claim area, talking in excited tones and waiting in line for shuttle buses to take them to area hotels. "It's cool to see history, and we're going to see it, so we're very excited to be here," said Kristen Stikes, 23, of Waco, Texas.
US Airways, which has a major presence at Reagan, said its added service to the Washington area for the inauguration represented a 4.8 percent increase over the airline’s usual number of seats. The airline increased the number of flights and used larger aircraft.
By midafternoon, the airport -- which had seen a mostly quiet morning -- still seemed no busier than on a normal Saturday. Lines at the taxi stands were short, and the only buses pulled up outside besides the usual hotel shuttles were for the student group.
Most of the people waiting for their bags said they were in town to witness history.
Wayne Barefield brought his wife and three daughters from Birmingham, Ala. "It's a historic moment," said Barefield, 45, a doctor, who wore an Obama cap decorated with the presidential seal topped with the head of an Obama bobblehead doll. "He, as everybody knows is the first African-American to be elected President, and I wanted my kids and my wife and everyone else to come in and be a part of this."
"I think Obama rocks," added Barefield's 10-year-old daughter, Jordan.
The long baggage claim hallway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was busy Saturday morning, but the crowds came in manageable waves and did not seem to be unusual for a weekend.
What stood out, however, were the frequent large gatherings of young people and families in town for the inauguration. While dozens of empty taxis idled along the outside of the terminal, buses pulled up to ferry dozens of travelers closer to the District for the weekend's events.
BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said the airport is scheduled to handle about 28,000 arrivals yesterday, higher than normal. He said the airport was busier than usual but reported no major issues.
Delores and Rodney Griffin arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport this morning on a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville. While anticipating cold and crowds, they said they bought their tickets the day after Obama won the election in November and have been eagerly awaiting this trip.
On the airplane there was a shared spirit of joy and unity, Delores Griffin said, as passengers on the full flight seemed poised for this historic moment.
"I want to know that I can remember it to tell it," she said, adding that she and her husband will try to get on the National Mall on Tuesday. "I'll be happy to be in front of a jumbotron just to see and hear his speech. It's just important to me be in the aura of what's going on."
Staying with family in Capitol Heights, Md., the Griffins plan to do a service project on Monday and enjoy whatever else they can.
"We're going to try to get involved in everything, whatever we can get into and whatever we can afford," Rodney Griffin said.
United Airlines, which has a hub at Dulles International Airport, also increased the number of flights and switched some flights to larger aircraft.
Today is the biggest arrival day at Dulles, with Sunday and Monday being the biggest days at Reagan,’’ said Rob Yingling, spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which runs National and Dulles.
Yingling reports no operational issues at either airport.
(This post has been updated.)
-- Jerry Markon, Eric Weiss and Josh White
Washington Post Editors
January 17, 2009; 3:59 PM ET
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