Debt Helps Push D/FW Budget to New High

Board members, only too familiar with the financial reckoning at hand for Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, quickly passed a record $635.2 million fiscal 2006 operating budget Thursday.

In 2006, D/FW takes the full brunt of the debt load to pay for its $2.7 billion expansion, which includes Terminal D and the Skylink people mover.

After a brisk 90-minute presentation by airport staff, the board voted unanimously to send the budget as is to owner cities Fort Worth and Dallas for final approval.

D/FW's fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

"So many changes have to do with the new terminal and the train, and there's been so much discussion about what it all means -- there really wasn't much to be surprised about," board member Max Wells said Thursday.

The 2006 budget is $153 million more than this year. Of the increase, 88 percent can be attributed to expansion-related operating and debt costs, D/FW Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fegan said.

The remaining $18 million includes $7.4 million in pension plan contributions, as well as the net cost of operating and maintaining Terminal E. D/FW assumed the responsibility from Delta Air Lines after the carrier eliminated its hub this year.

Based on the expected flight and passenger loads -- and good concessions and parking revenues -- D/FW should continue to be an affordable airport for airlines to use in fiscal 2006. D/FW's cost per enplaned passenger -- an industry measure of how much it costs an airline to operate at an airport -- will be $8.33 -- $2 more than this year but still below many major airports.

If, however, the Wright Amendment is repealed -- causing flights to be lured away from D/FW as Dallas Love Field service expands -- D/FW's cost per enplaned passenger could balloon to $16, or, in a worst-case scenario, more than $20, Fegan told the Star-Telegram.

In that case, by 2009 D/FW would become one of the nation's five most expensive major airports, behind only New York Kennedy, Newark, Miami and Seattle-Tacoma airports, Fegan said.

In the Know

In 2006, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's net debt service will be $294.6 million, slightly higher than the airport's fiscal 2001 operating budget.

D/FW increases the terminal space it manages by 319 percent.

Takeoffs and landings are expected to be 738,000, up 2.8 percent from this year.

Landed weight is expected to be 42.8 billion pounds, up 4.7 percent from this year.

Passenger volumes are expected to be 59.1 million, up 5.9 percent from this year.

Local (origination and destination) passengers are expected to be 23.1 million, up 1 percent from this year.

Projects for fiscal 2006 include a $66 million perimeter taxiway on the Irving side of the airfield.