Celebrate DFW Airport’s 50th Anniversary with Events, Giveaways, and Parties All Year Long

The airport is hosting a year-long celebration to commemorate its golden anniversary.

Courtesy Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
Courtesy Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

Dallas-Fort Worth was different 50 years ago. The two cities anchored a growing metroplex, but towns like Arlington, Irving, Grapevine, and Southlake weren’t the booming communities they are today. Perhaps most notably, there was a big hole where DFW airport currently resides.

That changed on January 13, 1974, when DFW airport—or DFW Regional Airport, as it was called at the time—debuted as the country’s newest and most modern commercial airport. It was an ambitious and strategic project meant to meet the demands of rapid population growth and business development in the area. It was also collaborative. In the 1960s when plans got underway, Dallas was already served by Love Field, and Fort Worth had Greater Southwest International Airport. But the cities recognized the need for a larger airport that catered to the whole metroplex. Fifty years later, DFW International Airport is kicking off a yearlong anniversary celebration that includes events and activations throughout 2024.

From Then to Now

When it opened in 1974, the airport became the world’s largest airport by land area and measured more than twice the size of any other airport in the U.S. It had four terminals, 66 gates, and three runways, and it serviced nine airlines and welcomed 6.8 million passengers in its first year.

Today, DFW is the third largest airport by land area, it has five terminals (number six, terminal F, is set to break ground this year), 171 gates, and seven runways. It serves 28 airlines, flies to 256 destinations around the world, and carries about 80 million passengers per year, making it the second busiest airport in the world.

“North Texas would not be the national success story it is today without DFW Airport,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “The City of Dallas has grown tremendously over the years in large part due to DFW,” he added, noting that the airport has benefitted the region through job creation and local business opportunities while also connecting North Texas to the rest of the world.

Space shuttle Atlantis, 1989. | Courtesy Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

DFW Airport Anniversary Events

DFW airport kicked off the 50th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, January 13, exactly 50 years after its debut. Travelers received special anniversary giveaways and commemorative merch, selfie stations were set up in select locations, and a 70-era flash mob surprised travelers with in-terminal performances.

Passengers who flew on AA Flight 3589 from Little Rock to DFW arrived to a special water arch celebration and greeting at the gate in honor of DFW’s inaugural inbound flight from Little Rock in 1974. And on Saturday night, Dallas and Fort Worth skylines were lit up orange—DFW Airport’s primary brand color—to show appreciation for the shared airport.

More 50th anniversary plans are in the works, so stay tuned. In the weeks and months ahead, the airport will share additional details on the celebrations and surprises to take place throughout the year.

DFW Airport Fun Facts

DFW Airport covers about 27 square miles, making it larger than the island of Manhattan. It has its own zip code as well as its own fire, police, and medical departments. In other words, it’s big. But it’s also home to many firsts. Any major entity with 50 years under its belt is sure to have seen some things, and DFW’s purview is greater than most.

Before it even opened to the public, DFW became the first U.S. airport to host the supersonic Concorde, which touched down on September 20, 1973. It was also the first U.S. airport to host a visit by a NASA space shuttle when Atlantis arrived on May 16, 1989. Seven years later, it became the only airport in the world with seven runways. And then, of course, there are the dinosaurs.

When excavation began during the early-70s, construction crews discovered the bones of a 70-million-year-old Plesiosaur, a 25-foot long prehistoric reptile. (The bones were on display at the now-defunct Braniff terminal for many years, but they’ve since been moved to SMU’s Shuler Museum of Paleontology.) So, the airport’s been around for 50 years, and that’s worth celebrating. But let’s not forget that the area’s first travelers rolled through at least 70 million years ago.

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Kevin Gray is a freelance writer and editor covering food, drinks, and travel. He’s written for publications including the Dallas Morning News, Eater, Forbes, InsideHook and Travel + Leisure, and if he's slow replying to your email it's probably because he's off exploring a new country. Follow him on social media@kevinrgray.