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Airport shooting left 30,000 passengers with canceled, delayed flights at Dallas Love Field

"Security is not just protecting us from idiots with a .45. It’s also protecting our system," said Mike Boyd, an aviation planning consultant.

DALLAS — Aviation planners said it will take at least 24 hours for airlines to catch up after a shooting near ticket counters at Dallas Love Field forced them to cancel and delay dozens of flights.

Southwest Airlines said it canceled 69 flights on Tuesday in or out of its home airport. 

FlightAware reported 125 delays between Southwest, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines at Love Field.

In all, an estimated 30,000 passengers were impacted in some way when a 37-year-old woman, Portia Odufuwa, said to have mental health issues opened fire into the airport ceiling near a Southwest Airlines ticketing counter.

The shooting happened at 10:59 a.m. on Monday, according to Dallas police. 

Investigators did not immediately announce a motive. 

A Dallas police officer returned fire and shot the woman in the abdomen. She was taken to Parkland Hospital to be treated.

The woman opened fire at the far corner of Love Field’s new first-floor ticketing area – the farthest area away from the TSA checkpoints.

Credit: Jason Whitely

Even though the gunfire happened outside the secured area of the airport, all screened passengers had to come out of the gate area to be rescreened. 

Mark Duebner, Dallas’ director of aviation, said about 5,000 people were in the terminal and the process took a couple hours to complete.

TSA had all but one checkpoint open, Duebner added, and screening agents stayed overtime to get everyone back through quickly.

“I was frightened in making sure none of the passengers or employees were injured but I wasn’t that surprised,” Duebner said. “It is a common thing at airports across the country. We’ve learned a lot of lessons from other airports that have had active shooters. Unfortunately, it has become part of our reality.”

When passengers were forced out to be rescreened, they all flooded into the airport lobby and overflowed into the skybridge that leads to parking garage A. 

Most everyone remained inside. The forecasted high temperature today was 105.

Duebner said even though the airport staff had prepared for emergencies like this, there are still improvements to be made.

Credit: Jason Whitely

“On a nice day moving people out to the sidewalk works really well or even out onto the aircraft ramp area. But a day like today, we just can’t run that risk of putting people outside,” he said. “I think operationally we’ve got some ideas on how we can get passengers out of the heat without putting them all in the lobby.”

Mike Boyd, a veteran aviation planning consultant who runs The Boyd Group International, complimented quick-acting police but said that security needs to start preparing for situations like this so as not to interrupt air travel across the country.

“Remember security is not just protecting us from idiots with a .45,” he said. “It’s also protecting our system. So, if we’re shut down for three to four hours because of one incident at the ticket counter that means we have a security problem that needs to be addressed.”

The shooting happened in a public area before anyone gets screened for firearms. Preventing such an act will be challenging, said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert, who manages a firm called Leading Edge Technologies.

Credit: Jason Whitely

“We can't get ridiculous with this and be screening, all the way out to the interstates,” he said, “so at some point you're going to have a public area. So, really the best defense is what we saw - a good offense. An immediate response to the shooter and visible law enforcement are really our best defenses and then each individual taking their own responsibility to run to hide to fly to whatever they need to do during an active shooter incident.”

Despite an estimated 30,000 people impacted by the shooting, the suspect was the only person injured.

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