Detroit-Metro Airport – Worst to First

Detroit Metro Airport, Top 5 US Airports


Overview of E.H. MacNamera Terminal

Overview of Delta Air Lines E.H MacNamera Terminal.

Overview of Detroit-Metro Airport by Steve Richardson of, conducted between July 8, 2013, and October 2, 2013.

The Davey, Smith, and Berry Terminals have become a chapter in aviation history as the new E.H. McNamara and North Terminal were built at Detroit-Metro Airport. The improvements have brought Detroit-Metro to become one of the top airports in the United States.

Detroit-Metro Airport is easy to navigate, provides numerous international non-stop flights, and is welcoming to business travelers, families, students, and casual travelers alike. FlyersPulse ranks Detroit-Metro Airport as one of the top 5 airports in the United States.

Our overall Rating: 4.4 out of 5.0 points

Welcome to Detroit-Metro Airport

The City of Detroit may be in Bankruptcy, but business at Detroit-Metro Airport booming. The airport may share the city name, but it’s a self-funded operation of the Wayne County Airport Authority.

Thanks to the airport modernization program, Detroit-Metro Airport now features a splendid North Terminal along with the showcase E. H. McNamara Terminal, a booming international hub for Delta Air Lines.

The McNamara Terminal handles all flights operated by Delta and their SkyTeam alliance partners while the new-build North Terminal handles all other air carriers. Each terminal is well organized and boasts a Federal Inspection Station to accommodate international arrivals.

All Gates at Detroit-Metro North Terminal

All Gates – TSA Checkpoint at Detroit-Metro North Terminal.

Detroit-Metro: North Terminal

The North Terminal is home to nine carriers, Air Canada, American Airlines, Frontier, Lufthansa, Royal Jordanian, Southwest Airlines, Spirit, United Airlines, and US Airways, along with charter flights and the occasional diversion.

I arrived on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago Midway (MDW) to check out the North Terminal. My initial impression was positive as I walked into the North Terminal. The clean, sharp, and crisp look stood-out combined with the natural sunlight.

Upon deplaning, I meet Matt Virost, Public Affairs Coordinator with the Wayne County Airport Authority and Detroit-Metro Airport.  Mr. Virost proceeded to provide FlyersPulse with a tour of the airport, including areas normally off-limits to passengers which act as the nerve-centers for both the North Terminal and airport.

First up, an overview of the North Terminal —

The airside portion of the terminal is pleasant with a variety of shops, dining outlets, and duty-free shopping for international departures. Lufthansa provides a Senator / Business Class lounge for their premium passengers traveling on their non-stop flight to Frankfurt (FRA).

The North Terminal sports 26 gates, four of which are configured to accept international arrivals.

The check-in area features ample space with 80 check-in positions inside along with an additional 16 positions for curbside check-in. For the traveler on the go there’s 24 standalone e-ticket kiosks for self check-in.  For those needing extra assistance, there’s wheelchair services along with passenger service agents to assist individuals prior to the Federal Security Checkpoint operated by the TSA.

Lufthansa Lounge North Terminal Detroit Metro

The Lufthansa Senator – Business Class Lounge Detroit Metro North Terminal.

This particular morning, I had the opportunity to see the Royal Jordanian flight from Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) being processed at US Customs.  An hour later, I saw the take-off roll of the Royal Jordanian Airbus A340-300 on runway 22L as it took flight for the long journey back to Amman, Jordan. The North Terminal US Customs Arrival Hall exits into the domestic baggage claim area where family can meet and greet international arrivals.

The Royal Jordanian flight only operates two times per week.

I approached Scott Wintner, Public Affairs Manager with the Wayne County Airport Authority, to inquire about international growth. Wintner said, “The Airport Authority is constantly working with airline route planners to identify market growth opportunities to/from Detroit.”

Wintner continued, “Being home to the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East, Detroit is underserved with only twice-weekly flights to Amman by Royal Jordanian.”  Wintner further opined, “There’s a tremendous opportunity for the growing Gulf carriers, such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish in Detroit.”

On the topic of new routes to the Middle East, Wintner concluded, “That’s just one region where we see a particular opportunity for air service growth and are working hard to develop more air service.”

Should new market entrants arrive from abroad, the US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Federal Inspection Facility in the North Terminal is poised to accommodate growth with two baggage carousels and the ability to process 800 passengers per hour.

On the domestic side, room for growth likewise exists. There’s availability with a couple of the common use gates and the terminal was built with space for a sixth domestic baggage carousel.

Detroit-Metro’s North Terminal was originally designed with Spirit’s Detroit base of operations in mind. Spirit was founded in Detroit, but moved their primary base to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). Despite this, Spirit maintains a significant base in Detroit and is the third largest carrier at Detroit-Metro followed by Southwest/AirTran and Delta. While the number of gates for Spirit was overestimated, the number of gates sought by other carriers was underestimated. In the end, the numbers worked out.

Before we jump to the E.H McNamara Terminal, lets take a look behind the scenes with a special thanks to Matt Virost, Detroit-Metro Airport Public Affairs Coordinator.

DTW North Terminal Intl Arrivals

Detroit-Metro North Terminal International Arrivals Hall Exit.

Detroit-Metro North Terminal: Behind the Scenes

The North Terminal and Detroit-Metro Airport’s Airfield Operations Area (AOA) is operated by the Detroit Airlines’ North Terminal Consortium, or DANTeC for short.

As we fly through airports, we often forget about the hard work which goes on behind the scenes to provide you, the passenger, with a pleasant airport experience. A lot of hard work is done beneath the terminal floor and in offices behind the scenes at Detroit-Metro Airport to ensure passengers have a positive experience.

A positive experience includes a smooth flow from check-in to take-off.  This includes your baggage being screened, sorted, loaded onto the right aircraft followed by a safe pushback and departure.  Upon returning, the airport nerve-centers are hard at work to provide this pleasant experience again, starting with a smooth landing and taxi, prompt assignment of a gate, and fast delivery of your checked luggage to the baggage claim — or the arrivals hall for international flights.

We first visited the DANTeC operations center.  Here, employees monitor the entire terminal for problems and keep passengers comfortable from this state of the art master control center. This includes climate control to the monitoring of complex systems including baggage belts under the terminal floor which routes checked bags to and from aircraft. If a problem in the system arises, the engineers here fix it immediately.

Next, we look at the baggage system – looking at the complex system of conveyer belts initially reminded me of the UPS WorldPort. When you arrive and check a bag, it’s first sent to the TSA for inspection by inline CTX machines.  Once clear, the bags are routed to the appropriate flight via a series of belts where baggage tags are read by machines and luggage is sorted. The computerized system and a bit of human intervention is what gets your bag to the aircraft safety and in time for departure.

The next nerve-center Mr. Virost accompanied me to was the Ramp Tower at the North Terminal. Once an aircraft arrives onto the ramp, it’s their job to get the aircraft into a gate.  If the gates are full because of bad weather or if the airport experiences diverted flights, the professionals up here have to get creative to ensure everyone is deplaned and all aircraft taken care of. The juggling act begins again at night as more aircraft arrive into the North Terminal and remain overnight than gates available.

Detroit Metro North Terminal

Detroit-Metro North Terminal, Departure Roadway, Pedestrian Bridge, and Parking Deck.

Next up is the Airfield Operations Area (AOA) tower, which is housed in the old FAA control tower. Here multiple nerve centers come together and professionals oversee the condition of the entire airfield. They’re responsible for keeping the airfield clear of hazards be it foreign object debris (FOD) or unwanted wildlife.  Additionally, it’s their job to keep the runways and taxiways smooth and equipment on the field, such as lighting, in working order.

To keep the field free of foreign debris, AOA specialists close one runway for 45 minutes each day for a runway inspection. Other checks are done for damage, such as after thunderstorms. As electrical wires run under the runway and taxiways, cloud to ground lightning has the ability to leave a pothole behind.  As the AOA experts close and open runways as required, they have a direct line to the control tower.

During the winter, the personnel overseeing the AOA are in charge of snow removal from the runways, taxiways, and tarmac which is designated airfield. While a huge task, they’re experts at Detroit-Metro Airport and have snow removal down to a science.

The airport is equipped with the latest in snow removal machinery and they’re able to keep runways open and safe in brutally cold, snowy weather. While we may take salt for granted as drivers, it’s not part of airport snow removal plans as salt corrodes aircraft. However, the airport has a machine which not only plows, but lays heated sand, removes the sand, and is one of the many snow removal aces up their sleeve.

Instead of de-icing at the gate, deicing pads exist at each runway.  The strategically placed de-icing pads allow airliners to be deiced prior to an immediate departure.  This results in a lower the holdover time when wintery precipitation is falling, but once de-iced they’re at the active runway ready for immediate departure.  The de-icing program saves on de-icing fluid and special sewers exist for draining of the fluid — a portion of which is recycled.

The tower location provides an important birds eye view of the AOA, allowing operations to keep track of equipment and individuals working on the airfield.

Delta Boeing 747-400 Landing Detroit

Delta Boeing 747-400 Landing on Detroit Metro Runway 22L. (Note: 22R closed)

With four parallel runways and two crosswind runways, the field is in constant need of attention. Most of the year the four parallel runways are in use:

  1. 03L/21R – 8501 feet
  2. 03R/21L – 10001 feet
  3. 04L/22R – 10000 feet
  4. 04R/22L – 12003 feet

Typically the interior runways closest to the terminal, 03L/21R and 04R/22L are used for departures while arriving aircraft land on the outside runways, 03R/21L and 04L/22R. The use of interior parallel runways for departures and exterior parallels for arrivals is a standard operating practice at airports across the United States including other giants such as Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL).

The two crosswind runways are:

  1. 9L/27R – 8708 feet
  2. 9R/27L – 8500 feet

The crosswind runways typically remain closed, otherwise, they’re used a few days in the fall and spring when strong winds whipping out from the west require their use.

Touchdown of the DL 747 at Detroit-Metro

Touchdown of the 747-400 pictured above on Runway 22L at Detroit-Metro. (Note: 22R closed)

Thanks to the specialists working up in AOA, Detroit-Metro Airport is an all weather airport and runs well all times of the year, including during winter storms because of their top-notch snow removal crew.

Again, FlyersPulse extends a special thanks to Matt Virost, Scott Wintner, and Michael Conway of The Wayne County Airport Authority with Detroit-Metro Airport, and DANTeC.

Detroit-Metro: E.H. McNamara Terminal

Tram at DTW Midfield Terminal

Tram runs entire length of the Delta Air Lines Midfield Terminal Concourse A at Detroit-Metro Airport.

Also known as the midfield terminal, this passenger friendly facility is home to Delta Air Lines which operates a significant international hub here. While the main concourse is a mile long, ample moving sidewalks along with a tram system allow passengers to make connections with ease.

All mainline Delta and SkyTeam operations take place in concourse A, along with larger E-175 jets operated by Compass Airlines. Air France operates an A340-300 between Detroit-Metro (DTW) and Paris Charles-De-Galle (CDG) as of this writing.

International destinations Delta operates from its Detroit hub includes Amsterdam (AMS), Beijing (PEK), Frankfurt (FRA), Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair Int’l (NGO), Paris (CDG), London-Heathrow (LHR), Mexico City (MEX), Sao Paulo (GRU), Seoul-Incheon (ICN), Shanghai (PVG), and Tokyo-Narita (NRT).

Of the above list, Amsterdam (AMS), Paris (CDG), and Tokyo-Narita (NRT) all serve as international hubs for Delta. The Tokyo-Narita hub is particularly strong given Delta’s 5th freedom rights to sell tickets to onward points such asSingapore(SIN).

DL 275 at Detroit Metro Boeing 747

Gate A40 at Detroit-Metro Airport – Delta 275, a 747-400 preparing to depart for Tokyo-Narita.

Aside from the international destinations, Delta operates nonstop flights to most major markets across the United States along with smaller and medium sized markets in the Midwest and Great Lakes Region through a mix of Delta mainline and Delta Connection aircraft.

The international arrivals hall, located in the basement of the A concourse, is modern and capable of handling multiple arrivals at the same time. Once cleared, if you have a connecting flight, a special TSA checkpoint exists – after clearing security an escalator will carry you into the center of concourse A.

The terminal is spacious and beautiful with an entertaining water feature in the center of concourse A.  Concourses B & C are connected via a unique underground tunnel and the two concourses are home to flights operated on smaller Delta Connection aircraft.

While there’s no overhead tram, moving walkways allow you to cover the distance quickly should murphy’s law strike and place you at the furthest gate.

Detroit-Metro Airport is Delta Air Lines second largest hub after Delta’s base at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL).

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