Qantas has become a key player as Texas leads the fight for transit passengers among US hubs, writes Robert Upe.
The chief executive officer of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Jeff Fegan, doesn't agree with the assertion that his airport is at war with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
He refuses to concede there is a battle or even a skirmish. But the fact remains that Dallas has popped up on the radar faster than a speeding Boeing 747 bypassing Los Angeles.
Fegan downplays the competition between the two, but says: "I think a lot more people are starting to choose us [as a gateway airport] because of our nice new facilities, and clean and efficient operation. It is very easy to get on to your final destination from DFW [especially for the east coast]: we have services to 50 international destinations and to 148 domestic cities, which is virtually every city in the US. There are 10 to 20 departures a day to big cities like New York."
DFW is attracting new airlines to its gates with low-cost incentives, such as waiving landing fees and passenger charges to the airlines for the first two years, and while it already has relatively modern facilities - it is 38 years old and the international Terminal D opened in 2005 - it has also embarked on a $2.3 billion terminal renewal and improvement program while also planning for a sixth terminal.
Among the new airline arrivals is, of course, Qantas, which started with four flights a week in 2011 and is now flying daily from Sydney to DFW, which became the world's longest route, at 13,800 kilometres, after Singapore Airlines announced it was cancelling the former title holder - direct flights from Singapore to New York - last month.
Record expansion at the airport has brought 13 new international destinations and 32 routes since the start of 2011, but the arrival of Qantas is seen as one of the most important new alliances.
So far things are looking good, with Qantas planes flying at 90 per cent load factor. "The Qantas flights generate $200 million a year in economic impact for north Texas and suddenly people in our region have a new connection to Australia," Fegan says.
Emirates has also been lured by DFW, which is the world's fourth-busiest airport in terms of traffic movements (1800 flights a day) and the eighth busiest in the world based on passenger numbers (58 million a year).
DFW can also boast to being the only airport in the world that can land four planes simultaneously.
The airport is jointly owned by the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth and is about 22 kilometres from each.
"A lot more Australians are spending time in north Texas, visiting both cities," Fegan says. "There are now tour packages that include Dallas and Fort Worth as well as San Antonio and Austin. Fort Worth still has a real cowboy flavour and they have a cattle drive through the town each day."
Fegan was in Australia last month with a delegation of Texans that met with industry, government and tourism officials to drum up stronger ties between north Texas and Australia.
WORLD'S BUSIEST AIRPORTS
1. Atlanta (92 million passengers)
2. Beijing (77 million)
3. Heathrow (69 million)
4. Chicago O'Hare (66 million)
5. Tokyo (62 million)
6. Los Angeles (61 million)
7. Paris (60 million)
8. Dallas/Fort Worth (58 million)
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