D/FW Seeing a Dip in Holiday Traffic

D/FW AIRPORT -- It might be busy at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport this time of year, but not like last year, airport officials announced Thursday.

About 3.2 million passengers are expected to go through the world's third-busiest airport from Dec. 16 to Jan. 2. That's down 2.2 percent from last year, said Joe Lopano, executive vice president of marketing and terminal management at D/FW.

"It's clearly disappointing," Lopano said. "It's the first time we've had to come before the press and say we're shrinking, but it is what it is. As airport managers, we're going to manage to reality as we see it."

Lopano blamed the decline on the withdrawal this year of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and the permanent cancellation of 230 daily flights. He also cited Fort Worth-based American Airlines' decision in October to cut 12 daily flights because of fuel costs.

American, which filled some of the loss in Delta service with new flights, announced last week that it will cut 31 daily flights starting in February.

"We do, however, continually and aggressively seek new air service to fill that void by international carriers and low-cost carriers," Lopano said.

Airport officials announced their traffic forecasts on a day they've dubbed the year's busiest "getaway day," when about 200,000 people will pass through the airport to get to their Christmas destinations.

Thursday was also the first day that the Transportation Security Administration eased its rules for carry-on items. Travelers are now allowed to bring blunt-tipped scissors up to 4 inches long and small tools such as screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches up to 7 inches long.

But some airline unions are not happy with the changes.

"We are appalled that we are not being listened to by the federal government as they downgrade cabin security standards," Tommie Hutto-Blake, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a statement. "There is absolutely no reason for these potential weapons to be on board the aircraft. Passengers are free to transport these items in their checked luggage."

TSA believes other security measures make the cabin safer, including stronger cockpit doors, said Andrea McCauley, the agency's spokeswoman.

About 12.6 million items have been confiscated this year, she said. Of those, 3 million were scissors that are now allowed and 800,000 were tools.

D/FW Airport officials said at a news conference in Terminal D that they support the agency's changes.

"We believe that TSA is doing the right things," Lopano said. "We believe that they provide a safe environment for travel. And we have great confidence in their skills and their abilities. So we feel very confident that it's just fine the way they're going to do it."

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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