American Airlines has postponed its plans for a new terminal at its Dallas Fort Worth hub. The airline had announced the US$3 billion build last year with a planned 2025 opening date. However, times have changed. American Airlines has confirmed the new terminal build is paused indefinitely.
On Tuesday, chief financial officer Christopher Poinsatte said the new terminal, referred to as Terminal F, was delayed. He did not specify a time frame, rather used the word “indefinitely”. The CFO was speaking at an investor presentation.
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Terminal F delay flagged earlier this year
The delay was flagged several months ago. In April, the airport’s CEO, Sean Donohue, said planned infrastructure, including Terminal F, could be pushed back because of COVID-19.
“Given the data and the forecast I shared with you, undoubtedly the timing of the project and the size of Terminal F will be revisited. We will have those discussions with American and the other airlines at the appropriate time,” Mr Donohue told the Fort Worth Star Telegram in April.
At the time, Dallas Fort Worth Airport was estimating it would lose $225 million over the following six months because of declines in aircraft and passenger traffic. Dallas and Fort Worth jointly own the airport. Both the airport and American Airlines anticipated the $3 billion investment to be financed by bonds and repaid through airline rates and charges over the life of the bonds.
“Today’s announcement sets the stage for DFW Airport’s next 50 years,” said Sean Donohue last year when announcing plans for the new terminal.
“The new Terminal F and the expansion that could follow will provide the region with the growth it needs to compete with international business centers. The Airport is growing faster than ever.”
Terminal F planned on the back of a bumper year and rosy forecasts
The announcement of Terminal F was made on the back of a bumper 2018 for both Dallas Fort Worth Airport and American Airlines. Some 69 million passengers passed through the airport that year. There was direct access to 60 international destinations, and the airport had the biggest domestic footprint of any US airport.
The airport was and remains American’s base. This time last year, American Airlines was operating approximately 900 daily flights in and out of Dallas Fort Worth, with nonstop links to 230 destinations.
So it was no surprise both the airline and the airport were bullish about the multi-billion dollar investment in Terminal F.
“The plans we’re announcing today will allow for the continued growth of DFW and ensure the airport remains a premier gateway for American for many more years to come,” said Doug Parker, American Airlines CEO last year.
Outlook now not so bright at AA and DFW
But there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. On the back of COVID-19, traffic through Dallas Fort Worth on American Airlines and other airlines have fallen dramatically. At one point, only a few hundred international passengers were passing through the airport each day. Domestic passenger numbers fell to 20,000 to 30,000 daily passengers against the usual 200,000.
That was the nadir, and things have improved since then. But Dallas Fort Worth Airport believes it will be several years before business gets back to 2019 levels. At American Airlines, they are about to announce their second-quarter 2020 financial results, and it isn’t expected to be pretty.
In this context, the decision to pull the pin ‘indefinitely’ on the Terminal F project shouldn’t shock anyone. An airport spokesperson told Simple Flying they would continue to work with American Airlines on how and when the project will move forward.