THIS IS AN OLDER BLOG POST ABOUT THE 1989 PLAN TO REBUILD DFW AIRPORT. PART 1 OF AN BRAND-NEW EXPANDED ARTICLE ON THE PLAN, CAN BE FOUND HERE.
In 1989, a spectacular plan was presented that saw the elimination of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's characteristic semi-circular terminals, replacing them with gigantic linear terminals. Read all about it below!
With its semi-circular terminal buildings, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport has one of the most recognizable airport layouts in the world.
Opened in January, 1974, the airport's "drive-to-the-gate" concept was devised in a time when it was thought that "DFW" would mainly serve people originating in, and destined for the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Each of the four terminals would serve one major airline or a group of smaller airlines. In the master plan it was envisaged that 13 circular terminals would be built.
However, in the years following deregulation in 1978, airlines shifted to the hub-and-spoke model and airports were increasingly dominated by one or two carriers.
By 1987, DFW's two principal airlines, American and Delta, carried over 80% of the airport's traffic and they transferred two-thirds of their passengers.
For one, this meant that increasingly passengers had to switch between terminals in order to catch their connecting flight. Although the terminals were connected by an automated people mover, it was quite slow and only traveled in one direction!
Hubbing also lead to aircraft congestion during peaks, as both airlines operated on the eastern side of the airport.
In 1987, planners suggested to build three small "Atlanta-style" concourses west of, and perpendicular to International Parkway, the north-south highway dissecting the airport.
By 1989, this had evolved into a scheme to build a single very long concourse, parallel to International Parkway.
This new facility would be used exclusively by American Airlines.
By 2010, all half-loop terminals would be eliminated, to be replaced with linear terminals both east and west of the International Parkway. The scheme would double the number of gates from over a 100 to 200.
Traffic forecasts showed that traffic would rise from 47.5 million passengers in 1989, to over a 100 million passengers and a whopping 1.2 million aircraft movements by 2010, a number that could be comfortably handled by the new layout.
At the time, the total project cost was calculated at USD 3.5 billion (USD 7.2 billion in 2019 dollars), only USD 300 million less than the projected cost for the gigantic new Denver Airport, which was being developed at the time in tandem.
Due to the huge cost, the scheme was abandoned. Instead, the existing facilities were improved and expanded.
As we know now, the traffic never grew to the extent that was forecast back in the late 1980s. Although DFW by all means is a mega-hub, the airport handled only 69.1 million passengers in 2018.
With a title inspired by the setting of the iconic 70s film "Airport", this blog is the ultimate destination for airport history fans.
Marnix (Max) Groot Founder of AirportHistory.org. Max is an airport development expert and historian.