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DFW Airport terminal redo part of bigger mission; Fort Worth rail connection critical

by A. Lee Graham – Fort Worth Business

Terminal renovations are nearing an end at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, its CEO assured guests at a recent luncheon.

“We are coming to the end, which is the best news for everyone,” said Sean Donohue, drawing applause at a March 23 Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth.

For years, several terminals have undergone facelifts — and continue doing so — as the world’s fourth-busiest airport struggles to offer amenities and facilities equal to or better than those of other major air hubs.

And the $2.7 billion terminal makeover has paid off, Donohue said.

“It’s not easy getting through the airport when it’s under construction, but the good news is that terminals A, B and E are 70 percent done. And Terminal A is almost completely done. We appreciate everyone’s patience.”

Asked by some luncheon guests whether Terminal C will eventually undergo renovations, and Donohue said yes. But more planning is needed before the airport spends the $1 billion budgeted to complete those renovations.

“We need to understand what Terminal C will look like in the future before we put that kind of money into the terminal,” said Donohue, adding that a new terminal is possible in the future.

“I have discussed with airport [colleagues] about Terminal F or whatever we wind up calling that. We have to make sure this airport is in front of the curve. We are focused on what the future of the airport is going to look like.”

Its ongoing effort to improve the customer experience is one of four priorities that Donohue said are critical to airport planners. But he said the facility’s favorable customer satisfaction compared with other major U.S. airports is no longer acceptable.

“I would take the argument that that’s not exactly a high benchmark,” said Donohue, who vows to begin comparing DFW Airport with those in Singapore, Dubai and Seoul, among others with favorable reputations worldwide.

“That’s what we’re starting to benchmark ourselves against,” Donohue said.

To that end, DFW Airport has spent $130 million on the Terminal A parking garage alone, whose technology informs motorists how many parking spaces remain on each level.

The airport also boasts several passport kiosk readers, which Donohue said has reduced the amount of time travelers wait at immigrations and customs by 44 percent. And that’s while international travel volume has increased by 15 percent.

“That’s what technology can do for you,” Donohue said.

In addition to customer experience and customer performance, airport officials have prioritized operational performance (i.e.: utilizing renewable energy in airport operations) and employee satisfaction (providing wellness centers for physical activity while ensuring ethnic diversity of the airport’s management team and suppliers, as well as doing business with a certain percentage of businesses owned by women or minorities).

Equally important is linking up with planned passenger rail service to and from Fort Worth.

“We can’t wait for the T,” said Donohue, referring to TEX Rail, the 27-mile planned commuter rail project expected to begin service in 2018 from downtown Fort Worth, northeast across Tarrant County to Grapevine and into Terminal B at the airport.

“To have rail connection to Fort Worth is absolutely critical,” Donohue said.

The airport chief also addressed the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium. He assured North Texas travelers that his airport has taken all possible measures to ensure traveler safety.

“I can tell you, from the airport’s perspective, safety and security is our number-one priority. It always has been, and it will continue to be.”

Article on FW Biz Press by A. Lee Graham – Fort Worth Business