How Airports Spend Your Money: the Curious Case of DFW’s New Logo

In the US nearly all commercial airports are owned and managed by local governments.

Airports derive their revenue from largely from:

  • Passengers: facilities fees that are part of your ticket
  • Airlines: gate leases and landing fees, which are recouped by your fare
  • Concessions: leases and a percentage of revenue from the restaurants and shops in the airport, that are paid for out of your spending there

Then there’s the spending side, it’s amazing how much airports spend and often go over budget. I’ve written about massive cost overruns in Denver and how even their budget for monitoring costs went massively over budget.

It’s striking to me that yesterday Dallas Fort-Worth airport rolled out a new logo. DFW is ditching their blue and white logo for orange and adding the tagline “Travel Transformed”

Of course, “I’d fly out of DFW but I don’t like their logo” is something said by no passenger ever. But I was interested to see what this project cost the airport. DFW engaged Interbrand to do the work.

They will be rolling out this new brand and replacing the blue over the next three years.

So about the firm’s success with the branding of Mexicana…

Remember that the next time you see an airport complaining that they need higher ticket taxes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I assume it’s $1.5 million for an entire marketing strategy, not just a new logo. But it does seem like a waste, doesn’t it?

  2. Perception does impact a traveler’s experience. That includes signage. Signage includes logos.

    I say this as a person who loathes marketing in all forms and even thinks it’s a waste of perfectly good resources.

    But if you’re going to shame an airport (presumably for entertainment purposes, though perhaps you’re legitimately outraged at the airport spending $1,500,000.00 on a new logo), then be sure your conclusion lines up with your article. I feel as though, “remember the $1.5M on a logo next time they raise prices” is a bit more of a pet peeve you seem to have against airports raising rates.

    I say this because I just checked (in all seriousness, thank you for making this a conversation, because I did learn something here) and DFW’s FY 2013 operating budget was ~$650M. $1.5M on a one-time charge is, while perhaps not negligible, certainly small. It’s small enough that I’m confident there’s more in the budget that would be worth questioning the airport authority over, even taking into account that almost half the budget is dedicated to debt servicing.

  3. Is the tag line a command [you better travel in a state of transformation] or descriptive [travel is a transformational experience for you at DFW]?

  4. Don’t forget about parking revenue. I think DFW makes about $80 million a year from parking. That’s a lot of logos.

  5. Anyways the money has to spend it . I like the old sign. Instead of changing it make it bigger than before on any side of the airport. So we our DFW keep strong.

  6. $1.5m is just for their design work. Doesn’t cover the actual cost of making new signage throughout the airport incorporating the logo and lettering, repainting the monorail trains and other vehicles, buildings and miscellany. Not to mention new letterheads, business cards, envelopes and the million and one other items that will ultimately be branded.

  7. The cool logo of today going back to the days of install of DFW People Mover looks like a United Logo. Is there American Airlines Malfeasance Afoot? $1.5M to go to some garbage logo what’s up DFW?

  8. Don’t forget they have to compete with Dallas Love Field now so it makes sense they want to up their game a bit.

  9. And, this is why most government budgets are way out of whack. Oh, what’s a little extra $1.5 million and another $1.5 there. Such a small percentage of the budget, nobody is going to care. If I ran my household budget like governments, local, state and federal, my family would have been s.o.l. a loooonnnngggg time ago.

  10. Any time someone else’s money is being used to foot the bill nobody cares how much they spend or overspend. I’ve seen it happen first hand over and over again at the state gov’t level (even when facing massive shortfalls), and we all know it happens at the federal level as well. There is no such thing as a gov’t body spending money efficiently. There is no limit to government’s mismanagement of other people’s money.

  11. Gary – I’m sure the purpose of the new logo/brand is not to lure more passengers, but rather to attract more international airline partners.

    So even though you are right in that no traveler would ever say, “I’d fly out of DFW but I don’t like their logo,” I don’t think that was the point. DFW has doubled the # of international flight service in just the past 2 years, and if they want to continue attracting international airline partners and travelers, it’s imperative to have a “brand” that resonates with international audiences, and also to shows its aspirations for future growth and how it’s evolving be a more modern, memorable, unique and global airport.

    Lastly — Christine & Ken — DFW Airport is owned by the cities Dallas and Ft. Worth, and is managed by a board of directors. Its board is a semi-autonomous (self-governing) body charged with governing the airport and it can enter into contracts without the approval of its owner cities’ city councils. So it’s not “other people’s $$” they’re spending. It’s their own.

  12. @Claire Bloxom a public entity, governed by two city councils, is never spending “its own” money. In any case it raises revenue not just from taking a cut of passenger spending in the terminal, lease revenue, and landing fees/gate leases but also from “passenger facility charges” or PFCs which are ticket taxes enshrined in federal law and required to be collected by the airline and passed onto the airport authority.

    Meanwhile, airlines do not choose to fly to an airport because of its logo either.

  13. OK on the gov’t $$.

    But re: the airlines, they absolutely choose which airports to partner with. And while they don’t base it on a logo, per-se, it is based on the airport “brand” and the experience the airport can bring to their passengers. Especially some of the high-end international airlines, who have extremely high standards as their customers desire world-class experiences and amenities, luxury retail & service, VIP concierge services, cutting-edge technology and more…i.e. Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Thai Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Qantas, Emirates…..

  14. @Claire Bloxom yes, lots of airlines choosing to fly to JFK, base themselves in the pre-renovation Tom Bradley terminal at LAX, and put their customers through immigration formalities in MIA due to their high standards. 😉

  15. @Clare Bloxom — OK, so Gary beat me to it re: whose money is actually being spent. However, I would quibble with one more aspect of your post. That is your comment that, “DFW has doubled the # of international flight service in just the past 2 years, and if they want to continue attracting international airline partners and travelers…”

    DFW isn’t adding flights. Flights are being added to DFW. In other words, it’s the airlines that add flights — subject first and foremost to passenger demand (unless you’re Emirates and just want to f**k with Delta for fun) and to available gates/slots. The logo isn’t going to matter whatsoever. People want to/have to fly to Dallas for personal or business reasons, and they aren’t going to fly into Houston and grab an Uber!

    Gary was only half-right when he wrote that “’I’d fly out of [or into, presumably] DFW but I don’t like their logo’ is something said by no passenger ever.” No airline said it either! What matters to the airlines are the facilities, gate availability, and fees. What airline ever said “That logo is ugly, let’s fly into Midland-Odessa instead”?

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