American Airlines’ Global Hub Faces Capacity Crisis

Apr 13, 2019

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The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is facing a crisis. Like so many other airports around the world, the increase in air traffic and passengers is putting strain on the capacity of the airport. It’s an issue that is only going to get worse, and both American Airlines and DFW are working to solve the problem.

TPG spoke with Casey Norton, vice president of communications and marketing at DFW, to try to get a better understanding of what passengers can expect in the coming years if they are traveling through DFW. Norton told TPG that the airport has been seeing rapid growth for years and expects that growth rate to increase even more in the next two years. Norton said that DFW expects to serve around 72 million passengers in 2019 alone.

Casey told TPG that DFW is at a critical juncture when it comes to capacity. With American Airlines expecting to add around 100 flights this summer, upping their daily flight count to around 900, Casey says the airport could be short as many as 30 gates by the mid-2020s.

American Airlines and DFW have been in talks about the need for a sixth terminal at DFW. Casey was clear to point out that even though the airport and the airline have been in discussions and both agree that the problem must be addressed sooner rather than later, there still is no agreement between DFW and AA on how to move forward. Casey said that DFW and AA hope to have an agreement worked out in the coming months.

While progress on an agreement would be a good start, it may have little effect in the near term for passengers. Casey told TPG that even if they broke ground on a new terminal today, it wouldn’t open for five to six years down the line. Meaning that the issue of being short some 30 gates in 2020 is still a real threat to the airport’s capacity and its ability to serve the local community. Casey said, “We have an obligation to the community we serve. To be gate-constrained could lead to the slowing of growth, business and tourism in our region, and we can’t let that happen.”

Casey told TPG no design for the new terminal has been decided on, but looking to the future will play a big part in the overall design once an agreement is in place. Casey said DFW will be looking at how new technologies like biometrics, robotics and automation will impact the new design. “Those changes affect the footprint, which in turn affects operations, which affects the final design.”

TPG reached out to American Airlines for this story but had not received a response at the time of publication. We will update with anything we receive from American about this story.

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