Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fun at Dallas Fort Worth Airport

This being my second weekend here in Dallas it seemed like a good idea to get my wife to fly over for the weekend. Accordingly she boarded a plane yesterday, due to arrive at 4:00 PM. Of course the flight was late; for reasons I don't understand US domestic air travel seems always to be late. Why they don't just rejig the schedules to match the reality is beyond me.

It was a good thing the flight was late because I had to pick her up at Dallas/Fort Worth airport (hereinafter abbreviated to DFW). I've been through there before but this is the first time I've attempted the drive. Well, not quite true; I flew to DFW myself at the start of this trip, hired a car and drove out of the airport. This was the first time I was driving in!

I'd noticed, on my way out, that the freeway which runs smack through the middle is actually a tollway. I picked up the car at the rental centre which is a long way south of the terminals and drove back through the aiport to 635 using the service road; thus avoiding the freeway and the tolls. To give you an idea of the scale of the airport, I'd guess it's 5 or 6 miles North end to South end - they're not kidding when they name the long term car parks Remote South and Remote North

Coming in, Friday afternoon, I had no cash on me so I thought to myself, thought I, that I'd avoid the tollway. It certainly looks, as one approaches the entry to the airport itself as though the toll is paid upon entry rather than exit. Cars stop at what look suspiciously like tollbooths and there's a lane with a prominent sign advising that it's for vehicles with Tolltags only. Given, as aforesaid, that I had no cash and I doubt if they'll accept a debit card at that point (though I may be wrong), I decided to use the service road. At the time it seemed like a reasonable idea.

If you've been to DFW before you probably know what's coming next. Yep, as far as I could find, there is NO way for a non airport vehicle to get to any of the terminals or terminal parking from the service roads. As I drove along I could see the signs for entry to carparks for Terminal A, B and so on over to my left but nary a sign of an access from the road I was on. I drove down to the south end of the airport, took Crossunder #1 and headed back north. Still no sign of access from where I was to the carparking. Uh huh. Stop a moment and think. Whichever direction I'm going in the terminal car parks will be on my left but there are some exit ramps off to the right. Maybe one of those, though not signposted, will take me to a carpark.

Nope! They lead you past security controlled airport access points, past the terminal buildings and car parks, and back to the service road leading the other way! Ok, second try. I'll see what happens if I go to the DFW business centre. Entered a car park there and ended up in the public parking area on the roof. I went to the lift leading to the ground floor only to discover that you need a security badge to get past the doors leading to the terminals. No matter what I tried I was stymied by that lack of cash on my person.

Then came a happy thought! You understand that by this time it's 4:00 PM and my wife's flight is supposed to be on the ground. She has a mobile phone; so do I so, we can at least get in contact. So I had the thought that I'd drive down to the car rental centre, park the car there and take the rental shuttle back to the terminal. If, during that ride, my wife called I could at least get her to stay put until I got there.

That plan worked!

Oh, she arrived at 5:20 PM. I whiled away some of the time wondering why the TV display over the America West carousel only lists United Airlines flights and the rest of it shivering outside smoking.

I'll find out Monday morning whether one pays to enter the airport or to leave it; and whether they'll accept a debit or credit card.

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