Is a 1 hour layover enough time at Dulles? Absolutely! Here’s why:

Is a 1 hour layover enough time at Dulles? Absolutely! Here’s why:

I’m not sure what the deal is, but I’ve been noticing very tight connecting times at IAD when doing flight searches to the east coast recently. That might seem scary for the inexperienced travelers, but I can assure you that (in most situations) a 1 hour layover is enough time at Dulles:

  • For domestic to domestic connections, a 1 hour layover is more than enough time.
  • Domestic to international connections will require about an hour.
  • However, 1 hour will not be enough time for international to domestic connections.

Hopefully that was all you needed to alleviate your concerns. However, if I’ve all I’ve done was rattle your anxiety, keep reading. I’ll show you why making connections at IAD isn’t all that bad…

The reason why a 1 hour layover is enough time at the Dulles Airport (most of the time)

The nice thing about the Dulles airport is that all gates in all terminals are connected behind the main security checkpoint. This means that you can freely move between all terminals relatively quickly.

Not only that, airlines are fairly well grouped at IAD. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll have to run across the entire length of the airport to reach your connecting flight. Sure, there are occasional situations when that will be required, but it’s not as common as you might think.

If you do have to haul *** from one end of Dulles to the other in a short amount of time, the above-ground shuttles and underground train system (AeroTrain) makes it easy.

Dulles Airport Mobile Shuttle
Moving between terminals at IAD via the above ground shuttles is weird. Of course it’s fast and convenient, but it’s still weird.

Reasons why a 1 hour layover might not be enough time

The main reason why a 1 hour layover might not be enough time in Dulles for a domestic to domestic connection is if you’re a slow walker. Having difficulty understanding public transportation might make it difficult as well.

Although it is possible to walk from the main terminal to terminal A and B, there’s no way to walk between terminals A and B to C and D. In those cases, you’ll have to walk to the nearest train or shuttle station and catch a ride to your destination gate.

For most people, this won’t be a problem. However, if your mobility is limited (or you easily get confused), it could add some extra time.

It should also be noted that a 1 hour layover at IAD won’t be enough time for an international to domestic connection. All arriving international passengers must go through passport control and customs prior to retrieving their baggage and re-checking it. That will take more than an hour.

walking through underground tunnel at IAD
Dulles is not the ideal airport for those who have limited mobility. My advice is to bring comfortable walking shoes, a good attitude, and maybe a few $20 bills to wave at airport employees driving by on electric carts (so they’ll stop and pick you up).

What is the minimum layover time for domestic flights at IAD?

Honestly, if you’re flying United, the minimum layover for domestic flights at IAD (in my opinion) is 35 minutes. Yes, that will be cutting it close, but chances are pretty good that you’ll make it. If you’re flying in on one airline and departing out on another (assuming you have a carry-on only and you have checked in online), give yourself at least 45 minutes.

What is the minimum layover time for international flights at IAD?

Minimum layover times for international flights at IAD depend greatly on whether you’re coming or going. These are my personal time estimates based on my own experience:

Connecting TO an international flight

Connecting from a domestic flight to an international flight at Dulles will take about an hour. You will not have to go through any additional security checks board the plane, but you will be required to be onboard earlier than you would for a domestic flight.

Connecting FROM an international flight

Connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight at Dulles will take a minimum of an hour and a half. Going through the customs and immigration process will take some time. Not only that, you’ll have to retrieve (and re-check) your baggage before continuing on to your domestic connection.

IAD Underground Train
Even though the AeroTrain is a quick and easy way to get between terminals at IAD, don’t try to be a hero and schedule an international to domestic connection with a layover of an hour or less. Not only will you not make it, you’ll spare all your friends and family a boring story about how you missed your flight.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at the Washington Dulles International Airport

The Washington Dollis International Airport is weird. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, but it always seems to throw me for a loop whenever I’m there.

There are three main buildings at IAD:

  1. The main terminal contains all airline ticketing counters as well as a small number of gates (Z gates and H gates)
  2. Terminals A and B are grouped together in one building
  3. Terminals C and D are grouped in another
IAD terminal map
The IAD terminal map looks fairly straightforward until you realize that the ordering (and naming) of the terminals makes no sense. I want to meet the man (or woman) who proposed naming the Z and H gates “Z” and “H.” More than anything, I’d like to see if they could justify it while keeping a straight face.

The main terminal is nothing short of beautiful. It’s an elegant and grand structure, probably one of the most iconic airport buildings in all of the US. Unfortunately, the other two terminals are depressingly sterile and soulless.

layover at IAD
Even with a layover of an hour or less, expect to be doing a whole lot of this here at IAD.

Walking time between all terminals at IAD

Moving between terminals at the Dulles Airport is relatively easy. However, it’s important to note that because there’s no way to walk between terminals A and B and C and D, getting around will take a little longer than you might expect from just looking at the terminal map.

The good news is that the above ground shuttles and the underground train are extremely efficient and easy to use. Getting from one end of IAD to the other is relatively quick given its large size. Here are my personal time estimates:

Main Terminal to:

  • Z Gates: 2 minutes
  • H Gates: 2 minutes
  • A Gates: 7 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • B Gates: 7 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • C Gates: 7 minutes via the AeroTrain / 14 minutes via the shuttle
  • D Gates: 17 minutes via the AeroTrain / 10 minutes via the shuttle

Z Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 2 minutes
  • H Gates: 2 minutes
  • A Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 4 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • B Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • C Gates: 5 minutes via the AeroTrain / 14 minutes via the shuttle
  • D Gates: 14 minutes via the AeroTrain / 8 minutes via the shuttle

H Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 2 minutes
  • Z Gates: 2 minutes
  • A Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 4 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • B Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • C Gates: 5 minutes via the AeroTrain / 14 minutes via the shuttle
  • D Gates: 14 minutes via the AeroTrain / 8 minutes via the shuttle

A Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 7 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • Z Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 4 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • H Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 4 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • B Gates: 3 minutes to walk
  • C Gates: 5 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • D Gates: 8 minutes via the AeroTrain / 5 minutes via the shuttle

B Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 7 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • Z Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • H Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 6 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • A Gates: 3 minutes to walk
  • C Gates: 8 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • D Gates: 12 minutes via the AeroTrain

C Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 7 minutes to walk / 14 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • Z Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 14 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • H Gates: 5 minutes to walk / 14 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • A Gates: 5 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • B Gates: 8 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • D Gates: 3 minutes to walk

D Gates to:

  • Main Terminal: 17 minutes via the AeroTrain / 10 minutes via the shuttle
  • Z Gates:14 minutes via the AeroTrain / 8 minutes via the shuttle
  • H Gates: 14 minutes via the AeroTrain / 8 minutes via the shuttle
  • A Gates: 8 minutes via the AeroTrain / 5 minutes via the shuttle
  • B Gates: 12 minutes via the AeroTrain
  • C Gates: 3 minutes to walk

As I noted earlier, the need to use the train or a shuttle might be confusing for some passengers. In that case, a little extra time will be needed.

SANspotter waiting at IAD airport
Still 45 minutes to go before a United 787-8 business class flight to SFO, and I’m bored to tears. Maybe I’ll go ride the train again just to kill some time…

How long of a layover do you need at the Dulles Airport for a no-stress connection?

Unlike many other airport layover guides that I’ve written, my ideal connection times for IAD are considerably low. It’s just not a very fun airport to hang out in in my opinion, and the less time that I have to spend there the better. The following are my time estimates for no stress connections at Dulles:

Domestic to domestic layovers

A layover of less than 1 hour to go from one domestic flight to another at IAD is perfectly sufficient. The only reason why you would want to choose an itinerary with a longer connection time is if you want to get something to eat between flights. Otherwise, there’s really no reason to hang around.

Domestic to international layovers

I tend to think an hour and 25 minutes would be the perfect amount of time for a layover between an inbound domestic flight and outbound international flight at IAD. Not only will this give you enough time to be on board your connecting flight earlier, but it’ll also give you a chance to grab a bite to eat in the terminal before your long international segment. Because hey – food isn’t exactly what it used to be on airplanes these days.

International to domestic layovers

2 1/2 hours is what I would want for a no-stress international to domestic layover at IAD. This amount of time might be overkill for most people, but I personally like to walk around and stretch my legs after a long international flight. A layover at this length will allow me to walk around doing the old-man stretches that have become a necessity in my advanced years.

IAD airport terminal buildings
A view of the terminals here at IAD immediately after arriving in United 767-300 Polaris Business Class from LAX. It’s an ugly airport for sure, but at least it’s efficient. Kind of like me I guess…

Useful tips for making a 1 hour layover at IAD

By far the best advice I can give you for making a one hour layover at IAD is to not worry about it. As long as you’re flying domestically, there are very few reasons why one hour won’t be enough time.

However, if you’re going from an international flight to a domestic flight, I can assure you that one hour is going to be extremely stressful.

No matter what your particular situation is, here are a few tips that’ll make tight connections at the Dallas airport easier to handle:

  • Make every effort possible to book your flights on the same airline (or at least the same airline alliance). By doing so, you very likely won’t have to walk very far to your connecting gate.
  • Don’t get distracted trying to find something good to eat if you’ve got a tight connection. There are very few decent food options available at IAD (just my opinion), so if you’ve just got to eat, grab the first thing you see that looks acceptable and plan on finding something better at your destination.
  • Be prepared for the crowds. The two satellite terminals at the Dulles airport are thin and narrow, and they tend to get overcrowded at certain times of the day. Seating will be limited, and you’re probably going to feel frustrated trying to find a relaxing oasis. As long as you know this ahead of time, the rage you’ll most certainly feel will be easier to deal with once you’re there.

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