Dallas/Forth Worth International (DFW) is the third-busiest airport in the world. It sits on more than 18,000 acres of land and, in addition to transporting nearly 60 million passengers a year, it was also named the best cargo airport in the world in 2006 by Air Cargo World.
DFW is known for its highly skilled staff that leads the industry in finding ways to generate non-airline-related revenue. The airport’s leader is Jeffrey Fegan.
Fegan joined DFW as chief planner in 1984 from Westchester County (HPN) in New York, where he had been the noise-abatement officer. He has since served DFW as deputy executive director of finance and administration, director of planning and engineering, and assistant director. He was named CEO in 1994.
Through the years, he’s faced the challenges of Sept. 11 and the current ongoing recession. He also wields a large national presence and is well respected by industry colleagues. The past-chairman of Airports Council International-North America’s board is ARN’s director of the year for large airports.
Fegan spoke with Andrew Tellijohn about his time at DFW.
ARN: How has the industry changed throughout your career?
Fegan: In 1994, the airline industry was growing rapidly in a post-deregulation environment. I remember vividly how much evolution our organization had to go through, recognizing that this was a business and that we had to drive non-airline revenues. We had to be much more aggressive, we had to drive customer service, we had to drive our concessions program, we had to drive to seek new international routes. The whole industry was going through a change, but our management team focused on what was important and began to execute. And here we are in 2009. Our revenues are extraordinary. Our customer service has been recognized. The airline industry continues to struggle, but we think we present the best place in America for an airline to do business. Annual non-airline revenue is now more than $300M.
ARN: What challenges have you faced as DFW’s leader, and how have you overcome them?
Fegan: We’ve had some of the same short-term challenges that everybody has had with 9/11 and SARS. We also had a pretty significant issue related to the Wright Amendment that was controversial and time consuming. We saw Delta [Airlines] reduce its hub from 280 flights a day to 28 flights a day. We also spent a lot of time and effort in the last 15 years building facilities. We opened our seventh runway in 1996. We had an incredibly successful capital program that ended in 2005 with a new international terminal building and the new Skylink with the Grand Hyatt hotel and $200M or $300M in other projects. There have been a lot of significant events the last 15 years. Those were the most challenging. I think the way we got through them was simply we’ve got a great organization here. They are given the opportunity to perform and they bring it home. If you have a great organization with great people and a supportive board, you can get through almost anything.
Read the full interview with Jeffrey Fegan in the December/January issue of ARN. Click Here to subscribe!