Major Success: How DFW Airport Is Bucking The Trend In Pandemic Recovery

Dallas Fort Worth has rebounded very strongly from coronavirus, with seat capacity up by 1.9 million over summer 2019. As a result, it has jumped from the United States’ fourth-largest airport to second. Its growth is the greatest of all of the US’ main airports, with multiple carriers responsible – although mainly American Airlines.

American Airlines has added over 2.4 million seats at Dallas Fort Worth since summer 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Dallas Fort Worth was the US’ fourth-largest airport in summer 2019, but it has jumped to second-place this summer. This is because its capacity has actually exceeded what it had in pre-coronavirus times. It is up by a whopping 3.5% this summer, with almost 1.9 million seats added.

Dallas has exceeded its pre-COVID seat capacity more than any of the US’ top-10 airports. Photo: Getty Images.

Dallas has grown the most

Based on the US’ top-10 airports in summer 2019 (S19), Dallas is the main success story – so far. Indeed, the 10 airports collectively have 53 million fewer seats than in S21, down as they are by an average of more than 10%. Only Dallas, Denver, and Charlotte have grown, as shown below.

  1. Dallas Fort Worth: S21 seats up by +3.5% over S19; +1,859,166 seats
  2. Denver: +2.5%; +1,200,913
  3. Charlotte: +2.4%; +844,407
  4. Seattle: -4.2%; -1,538,283
  5. Las Vegas: -6.2%; -2,181,306
  6. Atlanta: -8.1%; -6,089,292
  7. Chicago O’Hare: -15.1%; -9,209,205
  8. Los Angeles: -20.0%; -12,211,794
  9. New York JFK: -24.2%; -10,916,185
  10. San Francisco: -35.1%; -14,511,664

While San Francisco was in the top-10 two summers ago, it no longer is. Replacing it is Orlando, which jumped from 12th place. This is mainly from huge cuts at other airports. But it is also from Orlando growing, although far shallower than Dallas, Denver, and Charlotte at +421,242 and +1.3%.

It is important to say that this concerns seats, which is the main thing measure looking forward. It says nothing of fares or loads or any other form of performance. It simply indicates what is planned.

Qatar Airways, third from left, has nearly 36% more seats at Dallas Fort Worth this summer. Photo: Dallas Fort Worth Airport

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Why is Dallas up so much?

Despite various airlines, such as Air France and Qantas, not serving Dallas this year, and multiple others having lower capacity than previously, other airlines have really bucked the trend.

As you’d expect, Dallas’ growth was enormously about American Airlines‘ development, which is examined later. Yet others also grew capacity, with those adding 40,000+ seats shown below. These include Vivaaerobus, which added Monterrey and Guadalajara to Dallas in 2020. It has since cut Guadalajara and added Mexico City.

  1. American Airlines: S21 seats up by 2,411,165; +5.4%
  2. Frontier: +272,582; +98.9%
  3. Vivaaerobus: +153,264; wasn’t operating in 2019
  4. Qatar Airways: +50,904; +35.9%
  5. JetBlue: +46,640; +38.6%
  6. Alaska Airlines: +44,010; +13.9%

Moreover, a selection of carriers added less than 20,000 seats, such as Sun Country (+14,970; +7.1%) and Delta (+4,320; +0.2%). While small in themselves, it is still growth. And under the circumstances, it is great to see.

Alaska Airlines hasn’t added any new routes, but it added an extra daily service to Seattle, making four-daily. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Record summer for American

This summer is a record for American at Dallas because it has the most seats of any summer so far. As shown below, some 46.8 million are planned, pushing its share at its number-one hub to 86%, up from 85% in summer 2019. Dallas is a true fortress hub for American.

American Airlines’ strong growth in S19 versus S18 was from adding 15 gates and the resulting increase in flights and seats. This increased infrastructure has been important in enabling the airline to grow quickly this summer too. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

American has 251 routes from the Texas airport, up from 244 in S19, analyzing OAG data shows. Understandably, international capacity is down overall. However, the fall has not been as big as it would have been because of increases to key tourist destinations like San Jose, Costa Rica (+110.6%), Los Cabos (+22.5%), and Cancun (+17.2%). But also destinations with strong visiting friends and relatives demand, like Guatemala City (+132.2%).

American has eight daily departures to Cancun, up from six. While it is mainly a B737-800 route, the B787-8 and -9, B777-200ER, and A321 are all down to operate. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

All about the domestic market

But American’s Dallas growth is really all about the domestic market, up as it is by 6.4% with 2.5 million seats added. While most states have less capacity than two years ago, many are up, especially to outdoor and other leisure places.

  • Alaska: +149%; +85,866 seats
  • Montana: +94.5%; +156,301
  • Idaho: +74.6%; +82,255
  • South Dakota: +31.2%; +48,802
  • Virgina: +30.6%; +101,702
  • Oregon: +29.2%; +87,321
  • Utah: +29.1%; +125,044
  • Hawaii: +22.3%; +96,410
  • Florida: +21.9%; +833,292
  • Colorado: +20.2%; +268,177
  • California: +8.6%; +404,688

Additionally, two states – Maine and Vermont – have been added since S19. Portland, Maine, will be served once-daily with A319s, while Burlington, Vermont, will be Saturday-only using Embraer 175s.