Fort Worth Business Press, June 2, 2014 Vol. 26, No. 22 - Page 10

news 10 June 9 - 15, 2014 | photos by alyson peyton perkins D/FW Airport thinks globally, prospers locally Sean Donohue, CEO Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, spoke at the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition’s monthly meeting in downtown Fort Worth. n A. Lee Graham A s Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport spreads its wings overseas, its chief executive promises that new international flights are just the beginning. Just six months after succeeding Jeff Fegan as airport CEO, Sean Donohue shared those ambitious plans at the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition’s June 4 monthly meeting in downtown Fort Worth. After American Airlines starts nonstop service from DFW to Shanghai and Hong Kong on June 11, Emirates plans to offer flights on the Airbus A380 super jumbo jet to D/FW Airport beginning Oct. 1. “It’s important because Emirates is the largest international airline in the world,” said Donohue, confirming the North Texas air hub as one of only three U.S. airports to accommodate A380 flights. “As we connect the world to D/FW Airport, we want to make sure we’ll have all the major carriers serving DFW,” Donohue said. The airport chief also wants to generate maximum revenue. Qantas air service to D/FW Airport alone is expected to pump $200 million into the region each year, Donohue said. Airline passengers provide that cash infusion with meal and retail purchases, as well as hotel room rentals. Allowing the airport to compete on a national, even international stage, are its seven runways, lack of a curfew on flight times and ability to serve a high volume of cu stomers. “That’s really, really important. You have to be open for business,” Donohue said. More customers are discovering the airport’s amenities every day as the airport continues to speed Customs processing and use of automated kiosks for passport checks, among other services. “We are far ahead of most U.S. airports in deployment of these technologies,” Donohue said. The airport’s role in the North Texas economy is no secret. It employs more than 1,700, serves more than 60 million passengers each year and pumps more than $31 billion into the North Texas economy each year, Donohue said. Half of that $31 billion is driven by cargo carriers flying in and out of the airport. “Airlines, be it commercial, passenger or cargo, are looking for flexibility,” Donohue said. He credited its many runways, 165 gates and position as the nation’s largest airport in terms of capacity for adding more carriers and more flights. But success starts on the ground, where the $2 billion Terminal Renewal and Improvement Plan (TRIP) has seen several terminals remodeled and and work on others continuing. “It’s our 40th anniversary. We have to update the factory,” Donohue said. Meanwhile, airport roads and parking garages also are undergoing renovation. Upgrading only six of the airport’s gates at a time creates passenger headaches, which Donohue promises will lessen. “We’ll try to minimize the impact of that.” Before taking the reins in October, Donohue was chief operating officer for Virgin Australia and spent 25 years in executive positions with United Airlines before that. Not until he accepted his current “It’s our 40th anniversary. We have to update the factory.” — Sean Donohue, CEO, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport position did Donohue realize the importance of road and rail in Dallas-Fort Worth. “One thing I’ve learned in six months is just how important the overall transportation infrastructure is in this area. I’m not sure I’ve seen so much pavement being laid in my life in any metropolitan area I’ve been in,” Donohue said. Highway access is essential for air travel, with 50,000 vehicles pouring into the airport daily, about 22 million customers driving to the airport each year and 42,000 parking spaces at the bustling air hub. “So it’s not just air services,” Donohue said. Asked about commercial development on airport property, Donohue offered conciliatory words for Fort Worth and Dallas, which own the airport. “We do not want to be attracting commercial development that would take away from Fort Worth or take away from Dallas. We’ve just got to work in partnership to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”