Dallas Fort/Worth International Airport is the world’s 12th busiest airport for passenger traffic and more is set to come, writes Justin Burns
Dallas Fort/Worth International Airport (DFW) has big plans to develop airfield infrastructure and facilities as traffic grows and it is plotting how to accommodate further expansion and demand.
Last year, DFW welcomed just over 69 million passengers, growth of 2% on 2017, and in 2019 it is forecasting 72.3 million, an uplift of 4% while cargo tonnage reached 910,000 tonnes and is also growing.
Milton De La Paz, Vice President Airline Relations and Cargo Business Development, Dallas Fort/Worth International Airport, says the biggest operational challenge is accommodating growth in a way that does not impact customer service levels.
“When you take on this kind of growth with a large carrier like American, proposing to grow more, we have got to make sure our facilities and infrastructure grow as well, so one thing we are looking at is expanding facilities and our infrastructure to accommodate growth so we do not compromise our service levels,” he says.
The airport will see a massive update and renovation of the entire airfield including improved taxiways, runways, bridges, as De La Paz says it needs an overhaul as has not been touched for 40 or so years since it was opened. “There is a big infrastructure redevelopment going on and we are also looking at expanding gates as well and over the next five or six years we will see some new terminal development, adding new gates to accommodate growth.”
DFW operates seven runways and has 165 gates with 23 passenger airlines (10 domestic and 13 international) and 22 cargo carriers who provide service to 187 domestic and 62 international destinations. Developments will improve operations for all stakeholders at the airport including airlines and ground handlers.
DFW has plenty of capacity to accommodate growth of air traffic movements but the airport is a bit constrained in peak hours. “From the airfield perspective we are not slot constrained but we do find we have some constraints during peak hours with the gates,” he says. “At the international terminal on arrivals we have a lot of widebody aircraft coming in the afternoon (1-5pm) and if sometimes there are irregular operations they can get backed up, so we will be adding new gates to relieve some of that peak time congestion.”
He says it does not affect South American flights as they usually come in early and leave late at night, but it does affect Asian and European traffic, both of which are targets for route network expansion which come in during the afternoon.
American has an 85 per cent share of traffic at DFW and fuels traffic growth through network expansion and is adding more this year.
De La Paz notes developing links to Europe is the main network development focus as it is underserved to the continent. “American is adding some this summer to Dublin and Munich which are big additions to our network, but we still think there are other opportunities for growth,” he says. “We would like to see Switzerland as don’t have anything there, or more to Italy as we just have a seasonal to Rome. Also, a big potential for us would be some Eastern European markets, like Budapest and Prague.”
He notes the other region of focus is Asia, and DFW has good service to Japan, Korea, and China but sees potential for new routes to central China and Southeast Asia.
DFW is one of the top hubs in the USA, but how does he think DFW can reach even greater heights?
“One of the focuses is innovation and customer experience so we are trying to draw on technological innovation. We are mapping out the customer journey from when they make the reservation and to the airport and back. To be an airport of the future we must focus on the experience of the customer,” he says.
De La Paz concludes: “To be in the conversation with the great airports of the world we must innovate and stay ahead of curve – a lot of innovation will come for passenger facilitation such as biometric technology.”
These are certainly exciting times for the USA’s fourth busiest gateway for passengers.