KDTW - Michigan's Largest Airport

We all know quite a bit about aircraft, but how much do we know about the airports all those wonderful planes fly to? I grew up in Michigan, flying into and out of Detroit. Here’s a brief history of KDTW, a place many IF pilots will become familiar with once Global is released.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (Metro) was officially dedicated in 1930. Originally known as Wayne County Airport, it hosted the Air National Guard until 1945. Pan Am (1954) and BOAC (1956) were the first major airlines to serve the airport. Using DC-7s, Detroit was a stop on routes connecting Chicago with Montreal, London and Frankfurt. American, Northwest and Delta soon followed, helping to further expand the reach of the airport.

Pan Am and American began offering 707 jet service to Detroit in 1960. Republic had a large base of operations there in 1984, and a merger with Northwest in 1986 expanded the hub. Nonstop 747 service to Tokyo started the following year.

In 2002, the $1.2 billion, 122-gate McNamara Terminal opened, now Delta’s second largest hub, and major gateway to Asia and Europe. Royal Jordanian was the first airline to bring the 787 Dreamliner to Detroit in 2014. And in recent news, Delta announced it will begin using the A350 on flights to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing later this year.

With 16 scheduled airlines serving over 140 destinations and close to 35 million passengers per year, KDTW ranks as the 18th busiest airport in the US and 46th in the world. Leave a comment or share some interesting facts about this amazing airport.


I have always been intrigued because DTW is such a hub for many international airlines, and has a huge constant stream of heavies coming in despite Detroit having a population of about 700 thousand.


Whenever I go on 94 (Highway along KDTW) I always hope to see the 747 and last time I went past, I got lucky :) Images aren’t the best of quality but they are still good…

KDTW is by far my favorite airport next to KTPA… It’s always so clean and I like how they keep everything updated in The airport to make it look modern. The Airport Hotel (The Westin) is also beautiful! Best part is, is that the Hotel has its own security lines 😉 There is also a parking garage at the McNamara which you can go on top and it’s the best Spotting spot available!

Definitely one of my favorite airports :)


Thanks for sharing! I’m one that focuses on planes, but I’m still interested in airports. I love reading the history on these places so this was an interesting read. It’s nice to have a sizeable international hub too. It makes it really nice for plane spotting if you’re into it.

Detroit–Metro has always been a favorite airport of mine, although I’ve never flown there before. The layout is very fitting as well as the overall terminal setup.

Although it is one of the busiest gateways in the United States, specifically for Delta Airlines, I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more traffic that goes in and out of DTW. The field seems to have plenty of gate space (specifically at the McNamara terminal) yet there aren’t many domestic and international carriers that provide service to and from there.

I can assume and say that due to Detroit’s deteriorating economy, there aren’t many business travelers coming and going through the airport – it seems to be more like a connection point for customers (Delta customers, specifically) to other airports around the mid-west and the rest of the United States (please correct me if I’m wrong).

Since you seem to be a local and have familiarized yourself with the airport, do you know if DTW Airport Authorities or airliners have any intentions on possibly commencing A380 operations at DTW? Some of the gates at the international section of McNamara have double jetways (usually used by Delta 747s which are phasing out, might I add) so boarding and de-boarding a super shouldn’t be a problem.

Do you personally think it’s due to the lack of airlines (with A380s in their fleet) having interest in DTW that is preventing the A380 from making an appearance? Or, based on my assumption of Detroit being more of a connection airport versus an O&D airport, do you think A380 equipped airlines simply don’t deem DTW as a profitable desination for A380 operations?

I have found a bit of information about this via the internet but I want to see what your thoughts are or what other information, that I may have missed, you have to share regarding this.

Thanks for creating such an interesting and informative topic about an interesting airport. :)


As you know, Delta is the largest airline at KDTW. Spirit and Southwest also operate fairly extensive flight networks. With its close proximity to Chicago, American and United maintain a smaller presence, though both operate frequent regional service between the two cities.

Detroit’s economy is slowly turning around, but it’s not a popular tourist destination. Most passengers are making connections to other flights in the hub system. Nearly 500 flights originate in or pass through KDTW daily.

The McNamara Terminal is currently the only place that can accommodate an aircraft the size of the A380, but it’s only used by Delta and Skyteam partner Air France, which likely doesn’t see the need to bring such a large aircraft into KDTW. The only other airline serving the airport with the A380 in its fleet is Lufthansa, but it operates from the North Terminal.

I hope I provided some answers to your questions about KDTW. I’m also interested in the information that you found.

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Yes, that’s right. How could I forget? Spirit Airlines has a hub and a new maintenance facility at DTW.

This is true and I do agree that AF won’t need to bring such a large aircraft to this airport unless they cut a few of their flights throughout the week. I think they currently utilize an A340-300 to DTW and it’s a seasonal service.

This is also true. I believe Lufthansa (LH) only operates an A330-300 throughout the winter season and an A340-300 so obviously operating an A380 to DTW would be an overkill and unnecessary (unless they drop 3 or so flights during the week). Plus, even if LH were to operate an A380, it wouldn’t be able to fit at the North Terminal due to space issues (I think the largest aircraft that can fit there is a 777 wide body).

You certainly did, thank you. :)

Well from my research, I learned that Delta Airlines is pretty greedy (for lack of a better term) when it comes to McNamara terminal operations. They don’t seem to provide other non-Skyteam Alliance airlines any gates there. Any new airlines that want to start service (who are not partnered with SkyTeam) must use the North Terminal. I saw the future designs for DTW within the master plan and it seems like 2 new modified gates at the North Terminal will be built to accommodate future international aircraft. At this rate, if any other new airlines have interest in DTW, it doesn’t seem like Delta (SkyTeam) won’t give up any gate space at McNamara.


Saw one land last summer. Took Virgin’s A330 out of Heathrow and landed on 27R after a 7 1/2 hour flight to Detroit. Exited immediately to find a Delta A320 braking past us- they turned off, then Lufthansa’s A340-300 came cruising down for a very nice touchdown.

Are you referring to seeing an Air France A380 at DTW or the normal A340-300?

Great story, by the way!

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The normal 340 operated by Lufthansa.

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I think DTW will be a great airport for global. If you fancy a busy, realistic american route, DTW-JFK is a very good option.

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