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DFW Airport CEO talks 50th Anniversary, yearlong celebration


DALLAS — Fifty years ago, DFW airport was built on farmland in the middle of nothing. Now, five decades later, it’s the epicenter of everything in North Texas, linking Fort Worth and Dallas and connecting those cities with the rest of the world. This weekend, the airport kicked off a year-long celebration for its golden anniversary.

DFW Airport CEO Sean Donohue sat down one-on-one with WFAA’s Janel Forte to talk about the milestone. “When they came together about 60 years ago and decided to build DFW,” he said. “They gave us so much.

And they gave us this footprint that has enabled us to grow significantly these past 50 years. ” It was January 13, 1974. American Airlines Flight 341 marked the official opening of the DFW, welcoming a plane full of passengers who’d flown in from New York by way of Memphis and Little Rock.

At that time – DFW had four terminals, three runways, and 66 gates – it was the largest airport ever constructed in the U. S. and was twice the size of any before it.

The airport began operations with nine airlines and served 7 million passengers that year. Today, it’s home to 28 airlines – including 16 international airlines – with service to 256 destinations worldwide. With an estimated 80 million passengers in 2023, DFW is now the second-busiest airport in the world.

Through the years, as DFW Airport grew, so did the cities around it – Southlake, Euless, Irving, and Grapevine, to name a few. The airport has boomed into an economic powerhouse for the region, bringing in billions of dollars of revenue each year, new businesses and tourism. “The economic impact is incredible.

We support over 600,000 jobs, which annually is $38 billion in payroll,” Donohue said. “On top of that, we bring in $24 billion a year in tourism dollars, (and) generate $5 billion in taxes each year between state and local. So we’re this enormous economic engine.

” From DFW, you can get to any contingent U. S. major city in less than four hours.

The airport has its own ZIP code, city designation, police force, fire and emergency and medical department. The airport has continued to lead the way in innovation – it was the first carbon-neutral airport in North America and is the largest in the world. “It’s a significant milestone for DFW Airport, but it’s interesting.

Even though we are celebrating 50 years, we’re the second youngest airport in the United States, which is, which is ironic,” Donohue said. When Donohue looks back on the challenges DFW has faced through the years, he thinks of Delta Air Lines Flight 191, which crashed in 1985, killing 137 people, and, more recently, working through the 9/11 attacks and the pandemic. The latter is an accomplishment he’s most proud of during his tenure as CEO.

“During the pandemic, we didn’t furlough one of our employees. We didn’t reduce benefits or pay when the pandemic ended and travel roared back. We had the employees to take care of our customers,” he said.

Looking ahead to the future, DFW is expanding to keep up with the region’s growth. Work has started on the $1. 6 billion construction of Terminal F and renovations for Terminal C, the airport’s busiest terminal.

“We’re not only just focused on the next 10 years, we’re looking out 15 and 20 years,” Donohue said. “For example, we’re building terminal F, the new terminal. Will have 15 gates.

That enables the growth we need for the next 10 years. But when you lookout 20 years, that’s not enough. So we already have the plan for the second phase of Terminal F.

” Over the course of the year – the airport will be hosting events to commemorate its Golden year. Celebrations kicked off Friday with ’70s theme flash mobs at the airport and both Dallas and Fort Worth lighting the sky up orange – the official color of DFW Airport. Major Airport Milestones.

From: wfaa

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