DFW Plans Gate to Accomodate A380 Jumbo

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DALLAS - Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport plans to build its first gate to accommodate the Airbus A380 double-decker jumbo jet at its international Terminal D later this year.

Mike Phemister, vice president for treasury services at DFW, told The Bond Buyer's Texas Public Finance Conference on Feb. 4 that the bi-level gate would probably begin operation in October.

Phemister declined to identify the airline that would be operating the jet, but DFW is expanding its international service dramatically this year, particularly routes to the Persian Gulf region with connections to India and other South Asian destinations.

While the airport lacks gate accommodations for the A380, it recorded its first A380 landing last September when a Lufthansa flight bound for Houston made a stopover at DFW due to weather. Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport opened gates for the Lufthansa A380 in 2012.

The A380 is the world's largest passenger airliner, with capacity of well more than 500 passengers.

The four-engine Airbus jet began service in 2005. As of December 2013 Airbus has 304 firm orders and delivered 122 aircraft. The airline Emirates has the most A380s on firm order with 140.

Terminal D, the newest of DFW's five terminals, opened in 2005 along with the airport's new SkyLink transportation system that connects the terminals.

DFW will need additional capacity for international flights at Terminal B, Phemister said. Airport officials are also actively discussing building a sixth terminal at a site that is already within the route of the SkyLink system, Phemister said.

"That will come probably sooner rather than later," said Phemister, noting that traffic is expected to climb from the current 62 million passengers per year to more than 70 million by the end of the decade.

The airport is remodeling its four original terminals - A,B,C, and E - under a $2.3 billion bond program.

In the course of improving service, DFW is considering some form of first-class-style accommodations for passengers who might be stranded by flight delays or weather, Phemister said. The airport won accolades recently for providing cots and keeping stores and restaurants open for passengers who saw flights to snowbound destinations cancelled.

With more than $6 billion of debt, DFW carries ratings of A-plus from Standard & Poor's, A2 from Moody's Investors Service and A from Fitch Ratings on bonds backed by airport revenues.

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