After 19 years of watching planes land and take off and trying to ensure that millions of passengers had an enjoyable experience at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Jeff Fegan announced Thursday that he plans to retire in September as the airport's chief executive.Fegan, 58, has held the top position at DFW Airport since 1994 and guided it through the turmoil in the aviation industry following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. While some suggested that big projects be put on hold, Fegan boldly advocated that DFW continue with its construction of a new international terminal during an economic slowdown.Terminal D opened in 2005 and the airport has since attracted several new foreign carriers."I felt now is the right time to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders," Fegan said as he announced his retirement to the DFW Airport board Thursday morning. "It's time to move forward."Local leaders expressed mixed emotions on hearing of Fegan's decision to retire."We hate to see him go," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who sits on the airport board. "He's been a great asset for the airport."Fegan was first appointed DFW's CEO in February 1994. During his tenure, the airport has doubled the number of international destinations to 50 and increased annual revenues to $650 million, up from $212 million. He also oversaw a dozen capital improvement projects including runway extensions, the new Grand Hyatt Hotel, construction of a new rental car center and the introduction of the SkyLink people mover system.Bud Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Fegan has been able to successfully navigate the airport through many major changes including airline mergers and bankruptcies, the negotiations to end the Wright Amendment and security changes at U.S. airports. In 2005, Delta Air Lines announced it would close its hub operations at DFW, dropping the number of flights from over 200 to only a couple of dozen almost overnight."Against a backdrop of a lot of turmoil in the aviation industry, what we've seen under Jeff's watch is a steady hand of management and a lot of improvements at the airport, particularly Terminal D, which is one of the best terminals in the country," Weinstein said.Fegan, who was first hired in 1984 as chief planner for DFW Airport, is currently directing the airport through its first major renovation of the original terminals built in 1974. The airport is spending $2.3 billion to update Terminals A, B, C and E. The first renovated phase of Terminal A is scheduled to open next month.He received a standing ovation from board members at Thursday's meeting. Fegan said he feels the airport is in a strong financial position with solid plans for the future."The last two years have been the best two years in the history of the airport," Fegan said, adding that it has added more than a dozen new international destinations and several new carriers, including JetBlue Airways, Emirates Airlines and Qantas Airways.The airport is also creating plans for a new headquarters building as part of its Southgate development near its south entrance. Fegan said he believes there is a strong possibility that a Terminal F will one day be built.Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Fegan's leadership has been critical in creating the airport's plan to become a top international airport. DFW, created by the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth to serve and region and end competition between the cities for airlines and routes, is often cited as the "economic engine" for the North Texas region, helping to attract many corporate headquarters to the area."Jeff's leadership has been critical in painting that picture and putting the process in place that we're confident about growing," Rawlings said. "The Dallas-Fort Worth area is truly becoming a global hub of commerce the way we envisioned it to be."Robert Hsueh, chairman of the airport board, said he and several other board members have formed a search committee and are likely to hire a consulting firm to help the airport identify possible candidates to replace Fegan.It's unclear which current executives at DFW might be considered for the top job. There are five executive vice presidents that report directly to Fegan: Chris Poinsatte, the chief financial officer; Jim Crites, who is in charge of operations; Ken Buchanan, who oversees revenue management; Linda Valdez Thompson, in charge of administration and diversity; and Phil Ritter, responsible for governmental and stakeholder affairs.Joe Lopano, who worked at DFW from 1996 to 2010 under Fegan before leaving to become CEO of Tampa's airport, declined to comment on whether he might be interested in the position."Jeff is clearly one of the visionaries of our industry and over the last 30 years has transformed DFW into a world airport leader," Lopano said. "He is my friend and a mentor and I totally enjoyed my years working with him at DFW."Board member Lillie Biggins, who is on the search committee, said she doesn't have anyone specifically in mind to replace Fegan but acknowledges the next executive will have tough challenges ahead.In 2014, the Wright Amendment restrictions will expire, allowing carriers like Southwest Airlines to offer nonstop flights to the East and West coasts from Dallas Love Field. And American Airlines, which operates about 80 percent of all flights out of DFW, is still in bankruptcy and may or may not decide to merge with US Airways.The terminal redevelopment program will also continue for the next several years as various parts of Terminals A, B, C and E are shut down and renovated.Fegan, who lives in Argyle, said he has no immediate plans aside from taking some time off after he leaves the airport in September."The next five years will be very exciting and I will watch from my kitchen table as opposed to from this office," Fegan said.Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631Twitter: @Sky_Talk
In his nineteen years as chief executive of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Jeff Fegan has overseen many major developments that expanded the reach and influence of the region's largest aviation facility.
Planned and constructed Terminal D, a new international terminal, which opened in July 2005 with a new Hyatt Hotel.
Opened the Skylink people mover system in May 2005, making it easier for passengers to travel between terminals.
Expanded runway capacity, building a seventh runway (17L, 35R) in 1996 and extending four runways by an additional 2,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft.
Doubled the number of international destinations from 24 to 50 while increasing domestic destinations from 113 to 148
More than tripled the airport's concession revenues from $15 million to $56 million and doubled parking revenues from $48 million to $110 million.
Developed a rental car center which opened in 2000, the international air cargo center, fire training research center and Founders' Plaza.
Negotiated a natural gas contract with Chesapeake Energy in 2006 that resulted in more than 100 wells drilled at the airport, contributing $300 million in revenues.