COVID-era changes you’ll notice at DFW International Airport and some you won’t

Travelers flying out of Tyler Pounds Regional Airport or East Texas Regional Airport connect through Dallas Fort Worth International Airports, one of the busiest in the world.

Passenger figures show people are taking to the skies again, nearing pre-pandemic levels. The latest available totals show 6,866,796 people traveled through DFW in the month of July, up 112% from the same period in 2020. That’s roughly a quarter-million fewer passengers than in July 2019, the Summer before the pandemic ground air travel to a halt.

Nationwide, the industry’s recovery was less promising for airlines as bookings began to slump amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. The winter holiday season is still forecast to be a busy period for travelers.

If you haven’t set foot in DFW Airport since the start of the pandemic, or even if you have, the superhub has been busy in the last year and a half.

HEALTH SAFETY

Passengers, workers, and other visitors to DFW Airport are required asks covering the nose and mouth, as required by federal law. “The requirement applies to anyone age 2 and older or anyone without a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask safely,” a news release stated.

Signage throughout the facility encourages social distancing and adherence to other safety protocols. Passengers needing assistance with directions and other information were able to communicate virtually with Ambassadors through the airport’s digital kiosks. Many volunteers have since returned to face-to-face interaction with passengers in the terminal.

Since January 2020, the airport has stepped-up the frequency of cleanings, especially of high-contact surfaces in the five terminals, including TSA security checkpoints and seating areas. Plexiglass shields have been installed, as well as changes to create a touchless experience in restrooms.

The airport also began installing Ultraviolet C, also known as germicidal irradiation, in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. “The technology effectively eliminated an airborne coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) during testing by destroying the outer protein coating of the coronavirus,” a news release stated.

With many destinations and governments requiring testing prior to travel or re-entry, COVID-19 testing facilities are available in Terminal D, both before and after the security checkpoint process.

This Summer, the National Guard began offering free COVID-19 vaccines to passengers in Terminals B, C, and D.

CONSTRUCTION

Even as fewer passengers were traveling through them, new gates were added, while others closed in preparation for major expansions.

DFW’s Terminal D South extension opened in May, bringing four new gates and a variety of amenities to the southeast corner of the international terminal. QR codes on every seat near the gates allow passengers to have food and drinks delivered directly to them.

A new construction approach is being used in renovations to some of the airport’s oldest facilities. Gates C35 to C39 are expected to be closed until 2022, as a concourse is constructed using prefabricated modules that will be transported to the terminal from an off-site location.

Five new gates are coming in a planned expansion of Terminal A. Set to be completed by 2026, these projects will add 850,000 square feet to the airport, a news release stated.

However, previously announced plans to construct a sixth terminal, Terminal F, are on hold for now, according to DFW Airport.

AIRLINES

From DFW International Airport, travelers can fly to 258 locations around the world. While some of the 22 airlines with operations at DFW have suspended service since the start of the pandemic, several have resumed regular or seasonal flights, while others are expanding service.

Sun Country Airlines is flying new non-stop routes from Dallas-Fort Worth, which is a focus city for the ultra-low-cost carrier. Service to Santa Ana, California and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico began earlier this year.

Mexican ultra low cost carrier Volaris Airlines now offers three direct flights each week to Mexico City.

Star Alliance member Lufthansa resumed flights to Germany in May.

In July, Doha-based Qatar Airways increased scheduled flights to 12 per week through September 26.

Low fare carrier Spirit Airlines, which operates crew and maintenance bases at DFW, also introduced three flights each week to vacation destination Puerto Vallarta, Mexico this Summer. Later this fall, Miami will be added to its list of 18 destinations originating from DFW.

Air Canada resumed service to Toronto Pearson International Airport on September 7.

Newcomer Turkish Airlines has announced four weekly flights with long-haul flights to Istanbul beginning September 24.

DFW serves as the largest hub for American Airlines and will begin direct flights to Tel Aviv, Israel on October 31. Through November 6, the airline also has added daily flights to Bangor, Maine and Burlington, Vermont, both new routes for the legacy carrier. Direct flights to Columbus, Georgia also began last month.

Frontier Airlines is expanding its network through DFW with introductory fares as low as $29 each way on flights to Phoenix this Fall. The low cost carrier is planning to debut nonstop flights to San Diego and San Francisco in September; Tampa and Phoenix in November; and Buffalo, New York, Durango, Colorado; and Hartford, Connecticut beginning in April 2022. Other new routes include: Atlanta; Chicago; Nashville; Ontario, California; Salt Lake City; and Cancun, Mexico.

In October, Delta Airlines is launching twice-daily service to DFW from Boston’s Logan International Airport.

AMENITIES

During the pandemic, DFW airport unveiled “smart” restrooms in its terminals, featuring motion activated faucets and soap and paper towel dispensers. The number of vacant stalls are now displayed on digital screens at restroom entrances. Inside, colored lights on the ceiling indicate available toilets.

American Airlines reopened its Admirals Club Lounges in the A, B, C, and D terminals. It also announced plans to reopen its Flagship Lounge in Terminal D later this fall.

United Airlines reopened its United Club at DFW in late August.

With its complimentary spa services and showers, American Express Centurion Lounge in Terminal D reopened in October with modified safety protocols.

Capital One announced it will open a lounge in Terminal D, near Gate D22, this Fall.

Most concessions have reopened, with many seeking to fill gaps in staffing, a similar situation seen across the state.

Texas-based burger chain Whataburger is planning to open a second location at DFW by the end of 2021 or early 2022. A 1,200 sq. ft. restaurant currently operates out of the Terminal E – Satellite, with Terminal D set to get the new store.

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