Aircraft scheduling is a miracle to me. Even with automation, I can’t begin to imagine the amount of work which goes into scheduling planes (which might also explain why things sometimes go wrong).
American has a pretty varied fleet, and the complexity is only growing further, as they’re integrating American and US Airways planes. The airlines share surprisingly few aircraft type between them, and those they do share have different configurations.
American has been trying to simplify hub operations for years now. For example, as they’ve decreased their MD-80 fleet, they’ve completely stopped flying them to/from Miami and Los Angeles, and instead operate them mostly to/from Chicago and Dallas.
Now American seems to be taking a different approach to simplifying aircraft operations, by trying something new at their largest hub at DFW Airport. As of late last month, American is assigning which concourse you arrive/depart from based on which type of aircraft you’re flying.
American 777 at DFW Airport
Via Airways News:
All flights assigned a gate in Terminal A will be serviced by 757’s, A321’s, or 737’s, while those assigned a gate in Terminal C will feature A319’s and MD-80’s. Terminal D will continue to support mainly internationally-bound flights, with some various domestic flights peppered in as usual, and Terminal B stays designated for regional flights sporting the “American Eagle” name.
To appropriately handle any unevenness between terminals, American also designated the low end of Terminal C (its operations Zone 3, encompassing from gates C2 to C15) as an overflow area for any aircraft type or destination.
So to recap:
- 737s, 757s, and A321s will depart from the A Concourse
- A319s and MD-80s will depart from the C Concourse
- International flights will mostly depart from the D Concourse
- The lower C Concourse (gates C2-15) will act as overflow gates
D Concourse at DFW Airport
As you can see, this isn’t actually a guarantee, given that the lower C Concourse gates will handle overflow traffic, and sometimes all types of planes also go to the D Concourse, since they’re operating international flights.
What’s the “official” logic for this change?
American hopes marrying aircraft type with a specific terminal will allow it to spread employees and resources more efficiently, while simultaneously offering more predictability for customers. By concentrating its larger aircraft in Terminal A, American can staff operations there more heavily, pulling some employees from Terminal C where flights will consistently demand less resources.
The changes also ease the flow of equipment logistically, with the airline able to park idle aircraft on pads closer to where they will eventually depart. For routes commonly employing a certain aircraft type, it will make baggage transfers more speedy and predictable.
This change makes perfect sense, and as a passenger it means you can strategically plan your connection times based on the type of plane you’re flying, at least in theory. That’s useful, since going between concourses at DFW Airport can take eons, given that the SkyLink operates on a roughly five mile track.