Opened in May 2019, the American Airlines Flagship First VIP Airport Club Lounge is located in Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- 23,130 SF
- Airport, Aviation
Eager travelers got their first look at the newest lounge in DFW international airport when the American Airlines Flagship Lounge opened its doors in May 2019. This lounge represents the upper echelon of airport lounges, with every detail curated to reflect a sophisticated travel experience. As experts in aviation projects, RWB Consulting Engineers provided the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design engineering that allows travelers to experience the very best creature comforts while away from home.
Looking to re-establish a true first-class flying experience, American Airlines embarked on a massive project to better serve their top customers. DFW Airport’s Terminal D is home to most international flight offerings, and therefore, the largest number of first-class passengers pass through this terminal.
Although American Airlines already catered to international business-class passengers with their Admirals Club lounges, the Flagship lounge would serve as the exclusive lounge for valuable first-class passengers. This Flagship lounge sets the standard for all future lounges in terms of design, finishes, and technology.
In a tucked-away area on the second level of Terminal D was a cluster of tiny lounges for other international carriers. They would combine these areas to create one large first-class experience. Transforming several old lounges into a contemporary lounge with modern amenities served up a challenge for the design and construction teams.
As the experts in aviation design services, RWB Consulting Engineers were the obvious choice to provide the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineering on this project. Before this flagship lounge at DFW airport, RWB had worked on many other projects with American Airlines and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The project kicked off in 2016 and opened to the public in 2019.
From a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering perspective, designing and constructing a contemporary executive lounge has several challenges. Some that we encountered on this project include:
Hidden out of view to lounge visitors, the production kitchen was the most challenging part of the design for the mechanical and plumbing teams. This huge kitchen needed to churn out global cuisine around the clock. The kitchen served two separate areas: a more casual open dining area and a private sit-down dining experience.
The starting point for the kitchen was challenging: our team had to combine several small kitchens from the previous mini-lounges into one giant kitchen. Although it seems simple at first, many of the utility lines were not large enough to serve a single massive kitchen. In coordination with the DFW airport facility teams, our engineers worked to re-size new sanitary waste lines. We relocated connections and routings to suit the new kitchen layout.
A major design challenge for commercial kitchens is the removal of grease-laden air from the space. Exhaust air from a kitchen hood that contains grease and smoke from cooking has a higher likelihood of catching fire. Special ductwork called grease duct is traditionally used to capture and transport kitchen exhaust. Although effective at removing the greasy, smokey air, grease duct is not a perfect solution. It requires regular maintenance and cleaning of the ductwork. And it must be routed to a special outlet for exhausting to the exterior.
Instead of using grease duct, RWB’s mechanical team incorporated a unique grease extraction design for the large production kitchen. With this approach, it removes the grease from the air and dispensed directly into the sanitary waste line. The remaining cleansed exhaust air can then be contained in normal exhaust ductwork without requiring special handling or maintenance. This was the first use of this design approach in any space Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The team at RWB Consulting Engineers met with DFW’s building officials and the fire marshals to ensure compliance.
As the superior American Airlines lounge, the Flagship lounge was built with several top end finishings. Perhaps more obvious to the average traveler are the dazzling chandeliers, inviting armchairs, and attractive artwork pieces. But the AA team didn’t stop there.
To create a continuous sense of luxury, the highest quality catering and serving appliances were used in the open dining area. That includes upscale refrigerators, hot and cold slabs, and soup containers. The lounge also included a champagne bar along with a more traditional bar, all with high-end appointments. The final look and feel of the serving area required a clean, minimalist look. This was an added challenge for our plumbing team.
Our electrical team also faced a challenge in the design process. With multiple outlets at every seat in the massive airport lounge, our electrical engineers worked to ensure the final design could support such a large simultaneous power draw. Additionally, a complex web of electrical circuits minimized the risk of down time for plugs.
Although planning, design, and construction is what we do every day here at RWB, each project has its own challenges. As for this project, the Flagship lounge was under construction on the second floor of the terminal, while there was simultaneous construction happening on the first floor. Because the two spaces shared utilities, there was an added layer of coordination during construction. For example, all the plumbing work needed to be finished and in-place before the space below could be completed.
This project has several challenges common to many airport projects. Some of these include:
- Airport design standards–working within the guardrails of the Dallas/Fort Worth international airport design standards for the lounge.
- Central plant–tying in our mechanical design to a central utility plant for heating and cooling capabilities
- High ceilings–common to many airports is ultra-high ceilings. In this case of the Flagship lounge, all the utilities were located 35 feet up from the floor.
- Detailed 3D modeling in Revit–the team utilized three-dimensional design software to coordinate with other trades and disciplines. The client desired a very detailed 3D model of the design, at a 400-500 level of development instead of the more common 300 level. This level of detail provides enough geometry and information to support operations and maintenance.
Since our very beginning as a firm over thirty years ago, RWB has specialized in aviation projects working with different airports and commercial airlines. If you’re interested in having RWB as a part of your design team, contact us.