GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — Before a plane can push back from the gate at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, dozens of tasks — from fueling to catering to loading bags and passengers — have to be completed within a tight window to ensure an on-time departure.
The Dallas Morning News reports at American Airlines, the job of conducting this symphony of pre-departure tasks falls on a group of about 85 workers at a time, who keep the airline's biggest hub and the 150,000 daily passengers it sees moving around the clock.
"What goes on in Dallas ripples throughout the system," said Joe Taney, American's senior vice president of hubs and gateway operations. "As Dallas goes, so goes the system."
After decades overseeing airport operations from a cramped control tower overlooking the Terminal A and Terminal C ramps, American Airlines in October relocated these employees to a spacious, state-of-the-art facility inside Terminal A.
The new control center is a smaller, on-site branch of the Integrated Operations Center found at American's headquarters campus, which serves as the nervous system for the airline's global network. DFW is the first of Fort Worth-based American's 10 airport hubs to get an updated control center, although others could get a similar treatment in the coming years.
The airline recent showed off the new space at DFW Airport, which cost about $10 million. The control center offers all the new-age office amenities one would expect: standing desks, a locker room and several conference rooms outfitted with the latest technologies.
But more importantly, it brings American Airlines employees, as well as its regional airline partners at Envoy and contractors such as caterer LSG Sky Chefs into a single, more efficient and more collaborative 10,000-square-foot space.
Before, various functions were scattered across the airport, with the main control center housed in 1,500 square feet of space in the control tower that could fit just 22 people at a time.
The centerpiece of the new space is a wall with 22 55-inch television panels, which provide a real-time view of every gate American operates at DFW Airport, as well as the de-icing stations. Unlike the previous control tower, workers in the new space don't have a physical view of the airfield, although that won't really change the way they do their jobs, said Matt Eggers, managing director of the DFW hub control center.
Dozens of workers sat at their stations, each of which contained several computer monitors providing airport maps and detailed information on the status of flights, down to how many passengers had boarded a specific plane and whether the bags had been loaded.
The employees use this information to help direct traffic on the ground, guiding arriving aircraft to open gates and helping make adjustments if a plane gets held up on the ground. They're also responsible for communicating and coordinating when something's missing or there's a change in operations.
The goal is to make sure arriving planes are unloaded, cleaned and boarded with passengers, known in industry lingo as a 'turn', as quickly and safely as possible.
"Any changes that happens within those ... gates, these are the folks that communicate that out and make decisions based on 'Hey you need to stop loading. You need more catering. You need more fueling,'" Eggers said. "Anything that has anything to do with the turn of that aircraft will be monitored."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News,