American Airlines still dominates Dallas/Fort Worth; Spirit Airlines growing fast, Emirates flights arrived in February

So far in 2012, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has attracted a remarkable number of new routes – and new airlines, such as Emirates, jetBlue and Cayman Airways. This, in combination with locally based Spirit Airlines and American Airlines also growing, means that the airport that ranks as the fourth busiest in the US could be on track for a record year.

Opened to commercial services in 1974, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, frequently referred to by its IATA three-letter code of DFW, ranks as the fourth busiest airport in the US with almost 58 million passengers in 2011, although passenger numbers passed 60 million at the airport as long ago as 1997, and peaked at 60.7 million in 2000. In the first five months of this year, passenger numbers are up 3.6% in total, suggesting that the airport may reach a new high if not in 2012 then maybe in 2013.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Annual passengers 1982-2011 (millions)

Source: Dallas / Fort Worth Airport

American still has well over 80% of traffic at the airport

With a network of around 180 destinations served non-stop (including 40 international destinations of which 16 are in Mexico), American Airlines and its partner American Eagle Airlines dominates DFW with well over 80% of flights and seat capacity. No other single carrier has more than five percent of either flights or seats.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Routes (Domestic/International)
American Airlines 83.7% 82.2% 179 (138/41)
Delta Air Lines 4.5% 4.3% 8 (8/0)
United Airlines 4.3% 3.1% 8 (8/0)
Spirit Airlines 2.0% 2.8% 15 (14/1)
US Airways 2.0% 2.6% 3 (3/0)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 August 2012

Spirit Airlines only started serving DFW last May, but already operates to more destinations than any other airline except American. The airline has announced further new routes that will increase its network range to around 25 routes by next summer.

American Airlines has seen passenger numbers grow by 3% so far this year, with all other carriers growing demand by 7.6%. Non-hub carriers have seen traffic growth of 4.4%, while low-cost carriers have reported 9.1% growth in demand.

Finally, foreign flag carriers have seen a 37.5% rise in passengers thanks primarily to the arrival of daily Emirates flights from Dubai back in February, and by the introduction of Qantas’ service from Sydney (in May 2011) which operates via Brisbane on the southern leg of the route. Other foreign carriers at DFW are British Airways (daily flights to London Heathrow), KLM (five weekly flights to Amsterdam), Lufthansa (daily to Frankfurt), Korean Air (daily to Seoul Incheon) and TACA (daily to San Salvador).

Over 30 new services launched in last two years

In the last two years, DFW has celebrated the launch of some 35 new services, with Spirit Airlines leading the way with 15, followed by American/American Eagle with 13. Virgin America arrived in December 2010 with its two services to California, while Delta, Emirates, JetBlue, Qantas and most recently Cayman Airways have all added a single route.

Launch date Destination Airline WF (aircraft type) Competition* (WF)
1 December 2010 Los Angeles, CA (LAX) Virgin America 14 (A319) American (133), United (27)
6 December 2010 San Francisco, CA (SFO) Virgin America 14 (A319) American (76), United (26)
16 December 2010 Barbados (BGI) American Airlines 3 (B757)
16 December 2010 Rio de Janeiro (GIG) American Airlines 3 (B763ER)
10 February 2011 Joplin, MO (JLN) American Eagle Airlines 14 (ATR72)
10 February 2011 Queretaro (QRO) American Eagle Airlines 7 (ERJ145)
10 February 2011 Veracruz (VER) American Eagle Airlines 7 (ERJ145)
5 April 2011 Springfield, IL (SPI) American Eagle Airlines 14 (ERJ145)
5 May 2011 Las Vegas, NV (LAS) Spirit Airlines 14 (A319) American (70)
5 May 2011 Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) Spirit Airlines 14 (A319) American (42)
16 May 2011 Sydney (SYD) Qantas 4 (B744)
9 June 2011 Grand Island, NE (GRI) American Eagle Airlines 13 (eqv)
9 June 2011 Durango, CO (DRO) American Eagle Airlines 7 (ERJ145)
9 June 2011 Mazatlan (MZT) American Eagle Airlines 7 (ERJ145)
9 June 2011 Montrose, CO (MTJ) American Eagle Airlines 14 (ERJ145)
9 June 2011 Morelia (MLM) American Eagle Airlines 7 (ERJ140)
18 August 2011 Chicago O’Hare (ORD) Spirit Airlines 14 (A319) American (131), United (48)
15 December 2011 Aspen, CO (ASE) American Airlines 7 (CRJ700)
2 February 2012 Dubai Emirates 7 (B772LR)
9 February 2012 Atlanta, GA (ATL) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (65), Delta (79)
9 February 2012 New York LaGuardia (LGA) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (98), Delta (44)
9 February 2012 Orlando, FL (MCO) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (70)
22 March 2012 Boston, MA (BOS) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (55), JetBlue (20)
22 March 2012 Phoenix-Mesa, AZ (AZA) Spirit Airlines 7 (A320)
25 March 2012 New York LaGuardia (LGA) Delta Air Lines 44 (E170) American (98), Spirit (7)
3 April 2012 Garden City, KS (GCK) American Eagle Airlines 14 (ERJ145)
1 May 2012 Boston, MA (BOS) JetBlue 21 (E190) American (55), Spirit (7)
3 May 2012 Denver, CO (DEN) Spirit Airlines 7 (A32S) American (70), United (34), Frontier (44)
3 May 2012 Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR) Spirit Airlines 3 (A319)
4 May 2012 Tampa, FL (TPA) Spirit Airlines 4 (A319) American (42)
21 June 2012 Detroit, MI (DTW) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (40), Delta (39)
21 June 2012 Portland, OR (PDX) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (35)
21 June 2012 San Diego, CA (SAN) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319) American (63)
21 June 2012 Toluca (TLC) Spirit Airlines 7 (A319)
23 June 2012 Grand Cayman (GCM) Cayman Airways 1 (B733)
Source: anna.aero new route database *As of w/c 6 August 2012

Self-styled ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carrier) Spirit Airlines has already announced plans to add nine more domestic destinations within the next 12 months; Baltimore/Washington, Fort Myers, Houston, Latrobe, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, Oakland and Philadelphia, as well as new non-stop routes to Cancun and Los Cabos in Mexico.

Domestic fares are among the most expensive in the US

According to the US Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Analysis, DFW consistently ranks among the top 10 for the highest fare premiums. For the fourth quarter of 2011, DFW’s average domestic fare premium was 15.8%, which at least is slightly better than it was in the fourth quarter of 2010, when it was three percentage points higher at 18.8%.


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