American Airlines’ planned Terminal F at DFW put on hold because of COVID
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American Airlines’ planned new Terminal F at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has been put on hold, the latest aviation-related setback tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The airport has postponed the planned 24-gate facility “indefinitely” because of a drop in flyer numbers, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) chief financial officer Christopher Poinsatte said in a bond investor presentation released late Tuesday (July 21). The move was not unexpected, with The Dallas Morning News reporting in April that the timing of the project was under review amid the crisis.
The postponement comes as U.S. airline industry faces the most dire crisis in their history. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have reported billions of dollars in second quarter losses and every major airline is threatening large-scale furloughs as they prepare for a smaller future.
Terminal F was to be the domain of hometown carrier American Airlines. Plans for the facility, which would complete the original vision of a six-terminal complex at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, were unveiled in May 2019 with the building due to begin opening in 2025.
The terminal deal coincided with American expanding its schedule at Dallas/Fort Worth to up to 900 daily departures, or “DFW 900” as the expansion was called. The airline expanded into a satellite concourse connected to Terminal E at the airport to accommodate the added flights.
“[DFW 900] positions us to have more meaningful and profitable growth,” American’s vice-president of DFW hub operations Cedric Rockamore said in April 2019.
— Airline Maps (@airlinemaps) May 3, 2019
The crisis has derailed American’s growth plans. In July, the airline will fly about half as many flights as it did a year ago, according to Cirium schedules. However, at Dallas/Fort Worth it will operate nearly 68% of its 2019 schedule.
Maintaining a robust schedule in Dallas/Fort Worth, which American still views as a powerhouse, is key to the airline’s strategy to emerge from the crisis stronger than it entered. Month after month, American has flown more than competitors Delta and United with a view that with 80% of costs fixed, it makes sense to generate as much revenue as possible.
That strategy is on track to make Dallas/Fort Worth the “busiest airport in the world” in July, according to Poinsatte.
American is not immune from the industry’s ails. The airline has notified 25,000 staff of possible furloughs this fall and executives expect a multi-year recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Dallas/Fort Worth is continuing with some capital works. One project for American that will move forward is the reconstruction of six gates in Terminal C by 2022, said Poinsatte.
This is similar to what other airports are doing: continue or accelerate existing projects while postponing works that have not begun. Delta has accelerated construction of terminals at Los Angeles (LAX), New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Salt Lake City (SLC) for example. At the same time, Portland International Airport (PDX) in Oregon is considering shrinking or delaying plans for a new central terminal building even as it opened a new concourse for Southwest Airlines earlier in July.
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As for Terminal F, the plans are still on the books for Dallas/Fort Worth, with only the timeline up in the air, according to Poinsatte. It will likely be built in phases when it does move forward, he added.
“COVID-19 has hit the airport and airline industry very hard,” said Poinsatte. “But we believe based on American Airlines’ publicly announced strategy… that DFW will emerge stronger relative to other airports and more quickly than other airports.”
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