It’s only four new gates at DFW International Airport, but it might help to think about the new Terminal D extension as a glimpse at what future projects could look like, including the upcoming Terminal F.
DFW International Airport is putting the finishing touches on a four-gate extension to the D Terminal after officially opening the area to passengers in early May on a handful of American Airlines flights. But now that nearly all of the work is done, the $160 million project is finally showing the “airport of the future” promise for which it was designed.
“We’ve got a lot of new technologies, new experiences there,” said Ken Buchanan, DFW’s vice president of revenue management. “This area is the testing ground for that.”
After a year of empty airports from the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic is returning quickly and gates like these are proving more and more necessary. On Sunday, May 13, more than 220,000 customers went through DFW Airport.
The four-gate extension to Terminal D was already underway when the pandemic started, and construction never slowed. Instead, the airport actually used the downturn in the pandemic to push ahead on projects like the terminal extension.
The new 140,000-square-foot space is on the south end of Terminal D and will one day function as a gateway between Terminal D and Terminal F. In fact, at one point airport officials were calling it Terminal F phase one, but that name was nixed because funding and other approval for Terminal F have never officially been approved.
With the extension, airport officials had a chance to bring in a plethora of design changes, new technologies and customer conveniences that it had tested in other parts of the airport. The area has dynamic windows that automatically tint to let in just the right amount of light. Transparent video screens built into the windows show boarding times, weather information or nature shots or just look clear at other times.
The terminal extension is part of DFW’s rampant growth that was supposed to culminate in the construction of a new terminal soon. The airport hosted more than 75 million passengers in 2019, but that was slowed significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic while the airport and main tenant American Airlines put the project on hold to see how long it would take for traffic to return.
The gates are in the international terminal area and are slated to be used by American Airlines, which is responsible for more than 80% of the airport’s traffic, for the foreseeable future. The gates are also big enough to host large, wide-body aircraft needed for long-haul international flying.
In terms of design, the extension on the south end of Terminal D has high ceilings, big windows and open seating that eschews that cramped gate style found in some of the airport’s older sections.
The bathrooms have wider stalls, doors that extend to the floor and “Tooshlight” sensors with a light on the ceiling that glow green when a stall is vacant and red when occupied.
The terminal extension doesn’t just have restaurants; the whole area is a dedicated restaurant space, and customers can eat and drink anywhere.
Dallas-based Star Concessions paired with the Trinity Groves restaurant district to bring in restaurants such as Cake Bar, Eatzi and Beto and Sons. Star Concessions president Gilbert Aranza said that staff is expanding the restaurant offerings and eventually customers will be able to order food from essentially any of the Trinity Groves menus.
Each seat has a QR code on it so restaurant staff can bring food right to passengers, or food can be picked up from a wall of “food lockers” that can be accessed with a digital code.
The new area’s gates are numbered one through four, but that’s just a fortunate coincidence because the original Terminal D was finished in 2005 and started with gate 5.
“I would like to say we had it planned all along, but it wasn’t,” Buchanan said.
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