American’s New Aircraft-Dependent DFW Gate Assignments

Aircraft scheduling is a miracle to me. Even with automation, I can’t begin to imagine the amount of work which goes into scheduling planes (which might also explain why things sometimes go wrong).

American has a pretty varied fleet, and the complexity is only growing further, as they’re integrating American and US Airways planes. The airlines share surprisingly few aircraft type between them, and those they do share have different configurations.

American has been trying to simplify hub operations for years now. For example, as they’ve decreased their MD-80 fleet, they’ve completely stopped flying them to/from Miami and Los Angeles, and instead operate them mostly to/from Chicago and Dallas.

American-MD80
American MD-80

Now American seems to be taking a different approach to simplifying aircraft operations, by trying something new at their largest hub at DFW Airport. As of late last month, American is assigning which concourse you arrive/depart from based on which type of aircraft you’re flying.

Emirates-Lounge-Dallas-Airport-32
American 777 at DFW Airport

Via Airways News:

All flights assigned a gate in Terminal A will be serviced by 757’s, A321’s, or 737’s, while those assigned a gate in Terminal C will feature A319’s and MD-80’s. Terminal D will continue to support mainly internationally-bound flights, with some various domestic flights peppered in as usual, and Terminal B stays designated for regional flights sporting the “American Eagle” name.

To appropriately handle any unevenness between terminals, American also designated the low end of Terminal C (its operations Zone 3, encompassing from gates C2 to C15) as an overflow area for any aircraft type or destination.

So to recap:

  • 737s, 757s, and A321s will depart from the A Concourse
  • A319s and MD-80s will depart from the C Concourse
  • International flights will mostly depart from the D Concourse
  • The lower C Concourse (gates C2-15) will act as overflow gates

Emirates-Lounge-Dallas-Airport-02
D Concourse at DFW Airport

As you can see, this isn’t actually a guarantee, given that the lower C Concourse gates will handle overflow traffic, and sometimes all types of planes also go to the D Concourse, since they’re operating international flights.

What’s the “official” logic for this change?

American hopes marrying aircraft type with a specific terminal will allow it to spread employees and resources more efficiently, while simultaneously offering more predictability for customers. By concentrating its larger aircraft in Terminal A, American can staff operations there more heavily, pulling some employees from Terminal C where flights will consistently demand less resources.

The changes also ease the flow of equipment logistically, with the airline able to park idle aircraft on pads closer to where they will eventually depart. For routes commonly employing a certain aircraft type, it will make baggage transfers more speedy and predictable.

Bottom line

This change makes perfect sense, and as a passenger it means you can strategically plan your connection times based on the type of plane you’re flying, at least in theory. That’s useful, since going between concourses at DFW Airport can take eons, given that the SkyLink operates on a roughly five mile track.

Comments

  1. Nice. Now I’ll know weeks ahead of the concourse because I know the aircraft type at time of purchase. I won’t know the gate but just knowing the concourse at a large airport helps.

  2. Greater predictability for people like us, though I would think 95+% of the people flying would have no idea what aircraft type they are flying on, and wouldn’t be aware of this change. When friends of mine travel, I always ask them the aircraft type. Now they know to find out for me, but in the past they would usually just say “a white one.”

  3. This matches my travel this week. Came in Sunday on a 321B into A. Left on a MD80 from C. Came back yesterday into C on a 319. Left on a 737 from D. Four different planes on four segments. Three different DFW terminals. Two different Admirals Clubs. (And thanks to Citi Prestige for the access!)

  4. @JMR

    Post with links will not show up before being approved by a site admin, which might take a while.

  5. It’s amazing to me you categorize the transfer between terminals as taking eons. The Sky Link is incredibly efficient and speedy given the distances between terminals. I can make D to A connections in less than 10 minutes.

    Only exception here is if the train I running in only one direction which occurs mostly later at night when it does happen. So stop wth your DFW bashing.

  6. While normally I appreciate things like this, it caused my blood pressure to rise. Terminal A, in short, sucks. Terminal D may be for international flights, but 757s fly to South America which they do not fully consider to be an international flight, thus those are going out of A now. D was predictable and a pleasure to navigate and consume during long layovers.

  7. Be prepared. I had to slog through a terminal last month that was awful (I want to say A). Half the gates were under construction so gates 1-15 were open, then 15-36 were closed, but 37 and 38 were open, all by themselves down at lonesome part of the terminal. Construction was all around the gate, it was such an eyesore. I departed and return from this gate. I’ve flown AA for nearly 20 years and I’ve put up with flying through LGA for several years each week (ceiling tiles missing, exposed wires and water lines) and LGA looked better than what I experienced at DFW. Shameful.

  8. This seems to be a very internally focussed decision.

    Most airlines at least claim that they choose to split their flights by terminal based on their passenger connection requirements – rather than “it’s easier for our staff”.

  9. Fun fact! There is at least one MD-80 left at LAX, because STL-LAX (WHICH THEY STILL FLY!) is on a mad dog

  10. I recently received an itinerary update from American that my flight from YYZ-DFW-YYZ would be arriving into Terminal D, and departing from it two weeks later. Aircraft is an MD-80 for both flights. I guess this is the “few domestics” mentioned, seeing as flights from Canada arrive and depart as domestic.

  11. Agree with ADS. I can’t see how this change helps connecting at DFW. Terminal A, I believe, is the one under construction. Presently it is a nightmare to navigate. If the new gate assignments help flights arrive and depart on time, then kudos.

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