Aviation

$1 billion makeover at DFW Airport’s Terminal A (finally) done

kbouaphanh@star-telegram.com

The temporary walkways are gone. So are the sounds of drilling and hammering.

In their place are wide aisles and open-air, cafe-style concessions with modern paint schemes and wood-grain tile.

In other words, Terminal A at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, which is now 43 years old, looks brand new.

DFW Airport officials on Thursday officially declared the renovations at Terminal A substantially complete — although a small amount of finish-out work is still being done behind the scenes — and after a news conference took invited guests on a brief tour.

The work at Terminal A added up to about $1 billion, which makes it by far the biggest piece of the airport’s ongoing $2.7 billion Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program, said Sean Donohue, the airport’s chief executive officer. Terminals B, C and E are also getting makeovers — although the work on C has been put on hold while the airport and airlines take a closer look at their long-term needs.

“Now our customers really can enjoy the true benefits of the project,” Donohue said, while offering a public thank you to air travelers for their patience. Work has been in progress since 2011.

“It has not been easy for a couple of years,” Donohue said. “There have been tunnels. There have been temporary areas to the checkpoints.”

Although Thursday marked the end of Terminal A work, improvements have been unveiled gradually over many months. Most recently, the last five renovated gates, A-35 through A-39, were opened for flights.

Traffic on the rise

Donohue added that the airport projected 66 million people will walk through its five passenger terminals this year, up from 65 million last year.

Improvements to Terminal A include new check-in and security areas, with the addition of a fourth checkpoint. A total of 26 gates and two baggage claim areas were updated.

Also, concession space was expanded by 50 percent, and many new restaurants and other retailers are now open, spokesman David Magana said. There is a general sense of roominess near the gates and Skylink stations. New retailers include Dallas Cowboys Club and Lorena Garcia’s Tapas y Cocina, and new clothiers include Ertekin men’s fashion boutique.

Wifi has improved, and there are more places for travelers to charge their phones.

But the biggest hit of the renovation is in the parking garage, Donohue said.

Customers have told airport officials they appreciate the smoother traffic movement there and the LED beacon lighting system above parking spaces that makes it easy to find an available spot. Drivers can look down a row of cars and, if they see a small green light above a parking space in the distance, they know it is open. Meanwhile, occupied spaces have a small red light above them.

Also speaking Thursday was Joe Taney, American Airlines vice president of hub operations.

He said American had added 314 aircraft at DFW since 2012, and the Terminal A makeover “ensures we will remain for decades to come.” Although the DFW Airport board of directors is the public body that oversees expenditures at the airport, it is the airlines — mainly American, the area’s dominant carrier — that pay for improvements through their landing fees.

The Terminal A project involved more than 6,000 jobs, most of them construction-related, DFW officials said.

More upgrades on the way

Donohue also said airport officials are still in discussions with American about possibly building a sixth passenger facility, Terminal F. “We are making progress but we don’t have anything to announce yet.”

He said the delay in Terminal C improvements was necessary but temporary. American asked the airport to wait on Terminal C so it could evaluate its gate usage following a rebanking of flights last year, although the project is still scheduled to be completed by 2020.

“We don’t want to put an $800 million investment in Terminal C and find out our investment will only last five to 10 years,” he said.

DFW expects passenger traffic to grow to 70 million per year during the next 10 years.

Improvements at Terminal E are expected to be completed this summer, and work at Terminal B is expected to be done in about a year.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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