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No layoffs at DFW or Love Field so far as airport groups ask for $10B in assistance

DFW Airport and Dallas Love Field together employ thousands of North Texans.
Credit: Dallas Business Journal
A couple wait at nearly deserted baggage claim after an arriving flight from Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Airlines are continuing to feel the fallout from one of the worst declines in commercial aviation history as stock prices plummet, thousands of employees take unpaid leave and hundreds of jets are parked.

Airports are feeling the crunch, too. In a joint letter to top lawmakers Wednesday, the American Association of Airport Executives and the Airports Council International-North America asked the U.S. government for $10 billion in immediate assistance for airports.

ACI-NA represents both Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field.

"While additional help may ultimately be required, we believe our approach will help airports weather the immediate storm caused by dramatically reduced revenue," the letter said. "To be clear, a rapid infusion of cash grants to airports must be in any immediate plan considered by Congress."

DFW Airport and Love Field are two of the largest drivers of economic activity in the area and will undoubtedly feel the impact of the decline in travel. The two airports will feel differing impacts because of their two main tenants.

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American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) operates more than 80 percent of traffic at DFW through its mainline and regional operations. The carrier has been hit hard due to drops in travel, particularly international flying.

American's presence at DFW represents the second-largest airline hub in the world, behind only Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. Delta announced Wednesday it was consolidating airport operations in Atlanta and other airports as it grapples with fewer flights. An American spokesperson declined to say if the carrier has been consolidating operations at DFW.

As far as other international carriers, a DFW Airport spokesperson said while a handful of carriers, such as Lufthansa, Korean Air and Air France, have suspended flying out of DFW, most

are still operating out of the airport. DFW has 2,000 direct employees, and there haven't been layoffs, the spokesperson said.

The coronavirus comes at a time when DFW Airport was developing plans to build Terminal F, a sixth terminal for the airport. DFW, in conjunction with American, hoped the new facilities would be operational by the middle of this decade. Sean Donohue, the airport's CEO, said in an interview late last year that "these next 10 years, in my opinion, are the most important in the history of the airport."

An airport spokesperson said it is "yet to be determined" whether Terminal F's construction timeline would be affected by the current economic crisis. The availability of future financing was on the minds of the airport groups in their letter to lawmakers Wednesday.

"No U.S. commercial service airport has ever defaulted on a bond payment," the airport groups' letter said. "Allowing a default now would be devastating for any affected airport and the entire industry, as future borrowing costs would increase significantly."

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At Love Field, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) operates more than 90 percent of the traffic. The Dallas-based carrier will slash capacity by 20 percent from April 14 to June 5.

While it's unclear where Southwest will cut capacity in its network, the company said in a regulatory filing load factors month-to-date through March 15 were at 67 percent with numbers trending toward 50 percent in the last few days.

"Some of our revenue is tied to customers being in the terminal," said Chris Perry, spokesperson for Love Field. "There are, correctly, considerably fewer people flying right now."

Love Field is run by the City of Dallas Department of Aviation, which has 301 full-time employees, Perry said. He added that there have been no layoffs so far within the Department of Aviation.