Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Tuesday ushered in a new era for today’s fast-paced traveler when it, and American Airlines, jointly unveiled the recently completed renovations to a portion of Terminal A that allows for self-checking luggage and offers power outlets and work tables at the gates.
Gates A8 through A16 were totally overhauled in a renovation that began in May 2011. The portion of the nearly 40-year-old terminal was taken down to the concrete pillars and bare floors and walls, and rebuilt into a shiny, open-concept terminal with taller ceilings, larger windows that bring in more daylight and a sleek terrazzo tile floor that replaces decades-old raised ceramic tiles. Now, luggage with wheels makes no noise when pulled across the floor.
Jeff Fegan, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport CEO, 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 recent renovations are just a small part of a $2.3 billion project to redo the airports original four terminals, A, B, C and E, that opened in 1974. The work will take seven years to complete, and involves all new electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems, which together make the terminals 30 percent more energy- efficient.
For example, the new lighting system “harvests” daylight by recognizing natural light from outside to reduce the amount of electrical light needed. As it gets darker outside, the indoor lights increase.
Terminal A is leased to American Airlines, which was allowed to complete its own interior design work. The airline also installed the latest technology for self check-in as well as modernized gates with single-agent podiums for a more personalized experience.
At 6 a.m., the airport also reopened 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 a green, overhead light.
Kevin Cox, vice president for real estate for American Airlines, said the new terminal design eliminates as much of the infrastructure that gets in the way of the traveling public.
Many of the improvements, Cox said, “are for those customers who really don’t need any help, 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 scheduled to reopen in December, but that was delayed because American was finalizing their 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 touch screen technology. Touch screen technology was also used for way-finding 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 re-dress.
And, the terminal features a new wave of high-profile, brand-name concessionaires offering more choices and healthier options.
The next phase of renovations will be done to the center section of the terminal, followed by the remaining gates. Each terminal renovation will cost about $500 million, with about 70 percent of the budget spent on infrastructure work, Fegan said.
Some things in the terminal will look familiar, though, to frequent travelers. The airport reused terminal seating and flat panel monitors that were purchased only a couple years ago with some of its signing bonus from Chesapeake Energy Co. for a mineral lease.