August 6, 2008

D/FW Airport Might Close Terminal to Save Money

By Trebor Banstetter, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Aug. 6--Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport may consider closing one of the airport's terminals as they grapple to keep costs down in coming months.

Airport officials are putting the final touches on its budget for fiscal 2009, which begins in October, and they're planning a lot of belt-tightening, thanks to an estimated 7 percent decrease in airline traffic. American Airlines, which operates a hub at D/FW and accounts for more than 80 percent of the facility's flights, is reducing its capacity later this year because of record fuel prices.

The airline plans to cut 42 flights at D/FW. That means fewer dollars coming in from landing fees and other airline-related sources.

The airport plans to keep its $640 million annual budget flat despite an estimated $24 million increase in costs and $23 million in lost revenue from airline cutbacks.

No layoffs are planned, although the airport will keep a tight rein on hiring.

"We're facing some significant challenges," said airport Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fegan during a board meeting Tuesday.

The airport is considering several tactics for balancing its budget, including:

Transferring $10 million from a capital fund to operations

Increasing airline landing fees for the second half of the year

Negotiating with airlines to close all or part of a terminal, thereby reducing maintenance, utilities and staffing expenses

Between 35 and 40 of D/FW's 155 gates are unused, officials said. The unused gates are spread around the airport and include nine gates at the shuttered Delta satellite terminal.

"You can nickel and dime around the edges" to save money, said Chris Poinsatte, airport chief financial officer. But closing a terminal would be a major cost reduction, he said, estimating that it could save up to $21 million.

Still, he added, it would be a difficult negotiation, given that airlines are likely to oppose moving gates and even a partial closure would affect airport vendors as well.

In 2005, the airport added 28 gates when it opened Terminal D, a $1.2 billion facility designed to attract more international service.

The airport board is scheduled to take up the budget at another meeting Thursday.

The board also directed airport staff to review the possibility of eliminating the $1 fee for drivers to drop off passengers.

The fee raises about $4 million annually, airport officials said. It was implemented in 2003 to help boost revenues while American Airlines teetered on the brink of a bankruptcy filing.

Pet hotel Pet owners traveling from D/FW may soon be able to drop their beloved cats, dogs and other animals at a "pet hotel and resort" before catching their flight.

The airport's board approved a proposal Tuesday seeking bids for a pet facility on D/FW's west side, which would cater to airport passengers and nearby residents. They want it to be open 24 hours daily, with easy access to airport parking and terminals and streaming Internet video so owners can check on Spot and Fluffy from anywhere in the world.


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