What the Land Sale at Dulles Airport Means for You

Dulles Airport

Brian Tinsman
Digital Properties Manager


Land transactions aren’t always headline news, but this week provided a notable exception in Loudoun County.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Washington-Dulles International Airport, approved the sale of 424 acres to Digital Realty Trust. It was the largest of three Dulles parcels being marketed by MWAA, while retaining land for future runway expansion.

The move benefits Loudouners in two important ways, as explained by Renss Greene of Loudoun Now. First, the capital raised by the sale will help with airport expansion projects and help keep ticket prices low. He wrote:

“It also provides a pool of money that can be used to reduce the fees added to the tickets of every passenger who boards a flight at Dulles.

“Passenger fees, called cost per enplanement, at Dulles reached a high of $26.55 per passenger in 2014. As airlines sounded the alarm about the increasing competitive disadvantage of running flights through Dulles compared to the lower cost at nearby Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington airports, there has been a stronger focus on reducing to ticket prices.”

Over the last two years, the Virginia General Assembly has helped subsidize the enplanement fee at Dulles, dedicating $50 million to help make ticket prices more competitive.

Then Governor Terry McAuliffe championed the move as an economic development strategy.

“Dulles Airport is one of Virginia’s premier economic assets, and this critical investment will make it even stronger,” McAuliffe said at the time. “This funding will help support 45,000 direct and indirect jobs related to the United [Airlines] Hub at Dulles and encourage other carriers to provide enhanced air travel offerings.”

The strategy worked, with 5.7 percent growth to 22.7 million passengers per year, and a growing list of domestic and international destinations.

Greene reports that passenger costs dropped to $17.82 per flight this year, but without the funds from Virginia, the costs per enplanement could jump 30 percent. MWAA recommends that proceeds from the sale help defray costs for airlines, with savings passed along to customers.

The second way that this land sale helps Loudouners is through an increase in the county’s tax base.

Under MWAA, the 424 acres were not subject to local property taxes, or the Metro-area real estate tax, which is an additional 20 cents per $100 of assessed value. Now that the land is transferring to private ownership, the county will be able to collect on both, further growing the commercial tax base.

Commercial tax base growth has helped fund Loudoun County’s success, aiding in infrastructure projects from school construction to universal full-day kindergarten, major transportation projects and an award-winning public library system, all while decreasing the personal property tax on residents by 20 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Whether living in or just traveling through Loudoun County, this land sale is good news for everyone.