American Airlines Sets Move-In Date for D/FW

American's arrival in Terminal D will be a boon for Blue Mesa and Blue Bamboo Xpress, both partially owned by Susan Missimo.

American Airlines announced Tuesday that it will begin flying from the new Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport on Oct. 29, ending a three-month delay caused mostly by a new automated baggage-handling system.

The Fort Worth-based airline will occupy 19 of the terminal's 28 gates for international flights. The company's regional jet subsidiary, American Eagle, will fly seven routes to Mexico through some of those gates.

American will start out with 78 flights daily and will eventually ramp up to 114 flights a day.

Six international carriers are already operating from the new terminal, which opened July 23. Taca, a Latin American airline, will move into the new terminal on the same day as American and will use one of its gates.

Tim Smith, a spokesman for American, attributed the delay partly to testing of the baggage system, which took twice as long as expected. Workers have also been inspecting the closed-circuit monitors used to push the airplanes away from the gate and the information-display systems in the baggage-claim areas, he said.

Testing is expected to continue until Oct. 22, giving American another week to finish moving in. The $60 million baggage system is expected to handle 25,000 bags Oct. 29.

"Just the size and complexity of our operation is such that we wanted to make sure everything was functioning properly," Smith said. "The testing was going more slowly than anyone thought it would."

The airline estimates it could run "a couple thousand" people through the terminal on any day, Smith said.

American won't have to pay rent on the 19 new gates while they're not being used, said Jeff Fegan, the airport's chief executive. But the world's largest airline has still been making payments on its portion -- about 81 percent to 85 percent -- of the debt incurred to build the $1.2 billion terminal, he said.

Officials for American and D/FW have met twice a day for the past several weeks trying to test all of the components of the baggage system, Fegan said.

"We would have loved to move them in in July," he said of American, "but we're not disappointed it's taken a couple extra months."

Smith said the two sides have been cooperating.

"This testing is in the contract," he said. "There really isn't a case of us and them. We certainly want it to be right, but they have to make it right. That's why all of these testing procedures were part of what the contractors promised."

The announcement is welcome news for restaurants, bars and shops near American's gates at Terminal D. Of the 60 stands planned for the terminal, roughly half haven't opened because American isn't there yet.

"This is something to hang our hat on," said Jeff Payne, a co-owner in Cousin's Bar-B-Q, which has waited since July to open. "There's a lot of pain being felt by us. A month is still a while, but at least we can plan on something."