Background / History

DFW Airport including Terminal A began construction in 1972 and opened it doors in 1974. Initially Terminal A opened with 200,000 SF and functioned as a typical domestic facility for multiple carriers. Each carrier operated independently with stand alone ticketing and baggage claim areas with 2-4 gates each. In 1980, the Airline Deregulation Act was signed by Congress and gradually airline consolidations occurred causing the occupants in Terminal A to change. In 1981, American Airlines established a hub operation at DFW, at the time centered in Terminal C. By 1984, American Airlines had outgrown Terminal C and began expanding operations into Terminal A by constructing a corridor between the terminals. In 1983, a Federal Inspection Services Area was opened in the south end of Terminal A to process passengers from just two (2) gates. During the period from 1983 to 1992, a series of expansions and improvements were made to Terminal A as American Airlines gradually occupied this entire terminal. They focused on increasing passenger growth and operational integrity as they capitalized on hub connection opportunities. By 1992, the terminal was built out to 880,000 SF containing: 29 gates, a commuter aircraft operation, a 1600 passengers per hour (PAX/HR) Federal Inspection Services area serving 12 swing gates, airline clubs, enhanced concession opportunities, a new outbound baggage system, and airline support space for operations, including expansion of the three (3) passenger screening check-points. Terminal A was connected to Terminal C with a one-directional passenger train that had been installed initially in 1972. This provided a connection for passengers transferring between terminals, provided employee transportation, and a way for concession product to be delivered to the terminals. These improvements increased the capacity of the hub facilities for American Airlines so that by 1994, American Airlines ran 58 gates, 22 commuter positions with 500+ daily operations from DFW Airport.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, DFW Airport and American Airlines both recognized the growing importance of DFW in the domestic and international market. They worked together to cooperatively develop a series of master plans to efficiently prepare for expanded and balanced growth of navigational, airside, terminal and landside facilities and systems. Growth forecasts and route structure development trends were carefully coordinated to stay ahead of demand, maximizing the use of all existing facility capacity and to avoid overbuilding.

In the late 1990’s, American Airlines’ hub operation continued to grow through expansion in Terminal B, which put American Airlines in three (3) terminals with 70 gates and a remote commuter operation served by busses. A connector sky bridge was added to allow passengers to connect between Terminals A and B.

By late 1998, passengers and flight activity levels had outgrown capacity causing a drop in operational performance, dependability, and passenger levels of service. This marked the initiation of the Y2000, $2.4Billion DFW Airport Capital Development Program which consisted primarily of the construction of a new 28-gate international terminal (Terminal D) and a new elevated, bi-directional automated tram, Skylink. These facilities were designed in 1999 – 2000 with construction being completed in 2005. As a result of these improvements, DFW achieved the prominent position of being named the best airport in the Western Hemisphere by Airports Council International.

In 2006, due to the opening of Terminal D, and the downsizing of Delta’s operation at Terminal E, other airlines were gradually moved from Terminal B to Terminal E. This allowed American Eagle to move their operation to full contact gates at Terminal B.

Today, Terminal A is used exclusively by American Airlines and is one of 4 terminals from which they operate their largest hub serving over 250 domestic destinations and 60 international cities. Terminal A is now used for domestic operations only. 70% of the passengers processed at DFW are transferring between flights and remain on the secure airside of the terminals. Terminal A currently processes passengers who are arriving or transferring from one of four (4) other terminals or from gates within Terminal A.

Terminals A, B, C and E were opened with the inauguration of DFW in 1974. Each terminal was constructed in three (3) distinct sections which corresponded to a landside roadway system that served each section and a related parking structure. At the time, each terminal was constructed based on the airline tenants’ needs. As a result each terminal, although built on a common framework or structural grid, evolved very differently because of differences in the terminal tenants and operational demands. Terminal A opened with less than 200,000 SF, consisting basically of a central ticketing and baggage claim hall in the middle and small pocket lounges adjacent to the concourse that ran the length of the terminal. Infill construction occurred over the years, both airside and landside of the central concourse. The airport train system stopped in three (3) locations in the terminal at the lower ramp level. Parking structures were built over the years within the boundaries of the roadway systems. The relationship between parking, terminal entrances, ticketing, security check points and departure gates provided very high levels of passenger service.

Terminal A and other original terminals were constructed using a pre-cast concrete structural system with an in-fill curtain wall providing glazing opportunities in public areas. The architectural integrity of this design rhythm has been meticulously controlled over the years by the airport and design community which has resulted in a high degree of aesthetic continuity and uniformity. However, pre-cast concrete became increasingly difficult to obtain during the 1990’s and was ultimately abandoned as a framing system and was retained only at exterior perimeter wall panel and spandrel locations. As a framing system, it became difficult to modify in response to program changes and remains a realistic limiting factor when considering aesthetic enhancements to the terminal. The structural framework and strong geometric order allowed for a systematized approach to mechanical and electrical services. Air handling services are located in roof-top mechanical rooms which supply conditioned air to the concourse level and ramp level through vertical chases in the wedges between the segments of the terminal radius. Electrical vaults were originally located on the roof level within a building penthouse; but over the years of growth, new vaults were added at ground level.

The Evolution of Passenger and Baggage Security DFW Airport opened in 1974 with no passenger or baggage security and it wasn’t until 1979 that metal detectors were installed for passenger screening. Because each terminal had a unique footprint and composition of airlines responsible for this screening, the solutions varied widely. After many years of experimenting with various processes and configurations, it became evident that three (3) locations corresponding to each terminal section would provide the highest level of passenger service. Consequently, as Terminal A was expanded and modified in 1986, the Terminal A master plan included security checkpoints, one per section and sized to accommodate the equipment of that time and allow for passenger accommodation based on processing rates and flight schedules programmed.

During this same timeframe, employee security was also included in the Terminal A master plan at employee access points on the ramp level. A card access system was installed separating airside secure areas from landside non-secure areas. This line was carefully considered with respect to airline and concessionaire operational and access requirements. While this construction eliminated keys and push button codes as a security concern, it did not require employees or flight crews to be screened. In addition to these improvements, a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system was installed primarily for operational monitoring but with override features for security purposes. No provisions were made for baggage screening at that time.

Following the events of 9/11 and establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), extensive modifications and security improvements have been added to Terminal A. This includes construction and certification of a 100% bag screening system, installation of a dedicated CCTV surveillance system, expansion of card reader door controls, construction of additional support space for Department of Public Safety (DPS) patrols and TSA personnel. Staff monitoring at exit door locations from the airside gate areas and concourses to baggage claim and terminal exits were expanded. The passenger security screening areas have been fitted with all the current equipment, monitoring, and surveillance features required by the TSA. At times of heightened alert, additional DPS officers are posted and parking restrictions are imposed which limit access to the terminal frontage by vehicles. Because of the realities of the construction of Terminal A and proximity of terminal area elements, there has been no attempt to harden the facility or eliminate parking in proximity to the terminal.