DFW AIRPORT -- Travelers got their first look at major renovations being made to terminals at DFW Airport on Tuesday, passing through an expanded security checkpoint to find a brighter terminal with new restaurants and high-tech amenities.From green lights that signal drivers to open spaces in the new parking garage to sleek self-service check-ins and laptop stations, the completed portion of Terminal A highlights technologies designed to help fast-paced travelers move more quickly and comfortably.DFW and American Airlines, which leases Terminal A, reopened Gates A8 through A16 (currently, there are no Gates A1-A7). That part of the nearly 40-year-old terminal had been taken down to concrete pillars and bare floors and walls, and rebuilt with higher ceilings, larger windows that allow for more daylight and a sleek terrazzo floor that replaces raised ceramic tiles and eliminates the clickety-clack of rolling luggage.Jeff Fegan, chief executive of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, said the improvements are a "tremendous upgrade" in services that will meet the needs of the traveling public for the next 40 years. About 11 million passengers travel through Terminal A annually, he said."This is really a special day, an important day in our history," Fegan said. "This work involved a tremendous amount of planning and preparation."The renovations are just a small part of a $2.3 billion project to redo DFW's original four terminals, A, B, C and E, which opened in 1974. The work will take seven years to complete, and involves new electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, which will make them 30 percent more energy-efficient.For example, a new lighting system "harvests" daylight by recognizing natural light from outside to reduce the amount of electrical light needed inside. As it gets darker outside, the indoor lights grow brighter.American completed its own interior redesign to show off its new logo and single-agent check-in podiums for a more personalized experience.The first flight from the reopened gates left DFW at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday for Chicago's O'Hare Airport.At 6 a.m., the airport opened the section of the new parking garage across from the terminal. A new monitoring system tells motorists upon entering how many spaces are available on each level and open spots are indicated by green overhead lights.Kevin Cox, vice president for real estate for American Airlines, said the new terminal design eliminates much of the infrastructure that gets in the way of the traveling public.Many improvements, Cox said, allow customers who don't need any assistance to move through the system as quickly as possible.The first phase of renovations, he said, "sets the stage for future next-generation airport improvements, and will be a tremendous model for us to further refine how we integrate our new look and feel into our airports in the future."The renovated portion of Terminal A was initially scheduled to reopen in December, but that was delayed as American finalized its work, Fegan said."We felt it was better to open at the appropriate time and not rush things," Fegan said. "They were making a lot of changes to make improvements to their systems. These are natural, normal kinds of changes that are healthy, actually. We have a better product. We learn from this and move on to the next one."The new terminal ticket entrance features several self-check-in stations with touchscreen technology.Touchscreens are also used for informative signage for concessions, gates and passenger services.The security check-point was enlarged to 9,000 square feet from about 1,200 square feet, with lots of room for passengers to move away from scanners and conveyor belts to repack and put their shoes back on.And the terminal features a new wave of high-profile, brand-name concessionaires offering more choices and healthier options.The next phase will renovate the terminal's center section, with all of Terminal A expected to be completed by late 2014.Each terminal renovation will cost about $500 million, with about 70 percent of the budget spent on infrastructure work, Fegan said.Some things will look familiar to frequent fliers. The airport reused terminal seating and flat panel monitors that were purchased only a couple of years ago with some of the bonus money from natural gas leases with Chesapeake Energy Co.Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST
Backlit LED signage at gates.
New floors and finishes.
Self-service kiosks for fast check-in.
Restaurants include Ling & Louie's Asian fusion, TGIFriday's and Einstein Bagels.
Higher ceilings and larger windows.
Source: Dallas/Fort Worth Airport