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Guide to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

Located in the small town of Romulus in the state of Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is the main international airport serving the city of Detroit and the busiest airport in the state. More simply referred to as either Detroit Metro Airport or Metro Airport (or even DTW), it is a major operational hub for Delta Air Lines, serving as its main gateway to the Eastern United States and Asia, and is also an important center for Spirit Airlines.

DTW currently operates flights to thirty international destinations and thirty-nine of the American states. The airport has two terminal buildings containing 129 gates and six runways as well as extensive maintenance facilities for the service and repair of aircraft.

Only 18 miles (29 kms) from central Detroit, Detroit Metro Airport is also in close proximity to Toledo, Ann Arbor, Windsor and the south-western part of Ontario, Canada. Despite being one of the busiest airports in America with passenger numbers regularly exceeding 40 million per year, DTW has twice been voted the best airport in terms of customer satisfaction.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport bears the IATA (International Air Transport Association) airport designation code DTW.

A Brief History

The initial concept of an airport in Wayne County came in 1927 and was quickly followed up with the purchase of suitable land a year later. Progress was swift as the original airport was completed by 1929 and shortly followed by the first official landing in early 1930.

From 1930 until 1945 the principal operator at the new airfield was Thompson Aeronautical Corporation (a predecessor of American Airlines) but was also home to the Michigan Air National Guard under the control of the U.S. Army Air Forces who called the airport Romulus Field for the duration of World War II.

Post-War Changes

After the war ended, the airport expanded, becoming the main airport for Detroit, and was renamed Detroit-Wayne Major Airport in 1947. During the following three years, the renamed airport expanded yet again with the addition of three new runways. Much of the airline traffic that had used nearby Detroit City Airport moved their base to Detroit-Wayne Major and many of the major airlines of the time, including BOAC and Pan Am, were soon operating out of the growing airfield.

1958 was a pivotal year for DTW as the installation of long-range radar made it the first American inland airport certified to cater for jet airliners and the new Leroy C. Smith Terminal was completed. Also in 1958, American Airlines moved to DTW and was followed by Allegheny, Delta Air Lines and Northwest. It was also the year the airport adopted its present name of Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

The North Terminal opened its doors in 1966 and a third terminal (the Michael Berry International Terminal) was added in 1974. Republic Airlines made DTW a hub of its operations in 1984 and the hub was further expanded following the merger of Republic and Northwest Airlines in 1986. The two airlines merged yet again in 2010 when Delta Air Lines became a partner and Detroit Metropolitan became Delta's second-biggest U.S. hub.

Despite falling revenues in the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, DTW has steadily improved its cargo and passenger services over the last decades and some key events include:

  • April 2011. Lufthansa introduce curbside check-ins and opens its first North American gateway.
  • February 2014. JetBlue commence flights to Boston.
  • June 2017. United Airlines resume non-stop flights to San Francisco.
  • 2017. Spirit Airlines add additional services to the East and West Coast.
  • 2017. WOW Air begins low-cost flights to Iceland with connections to Europe.

Although the budget flights from WOW Air were extremely popular the company ceased operating these flights in early 2019 leaving DTW looking for alternative budget flight operators.

DTW Facilities

Detroit Metropolitan has 129 gates across four concourses which are housed in two terminals. These are the McNamara Terminal and Evans Terminal.

McNamara Terminal

Formerly called the Northwest WorldGateway but renamed after former Wayne County Executive Edward Howard McNamara, the McNamara Terminal is exclusively for the use of Delta Air Lines and its partners Air France and AeroMexico.

The terminal opened in early 2002 to replace the old Davey Terminal and has 103 gates on three concourses designated A, B and C. McNamara Terminal is built on four levels, each serving a specific purpose:

  • Lower Level - International arrivals, Customs and Border Protection center.
  • Level 1 - Arrivals and baggage claim area. International and domestic arrivals are serviced in separate areas.
  • Level 2 - Boarding gates and concourses as well as access to the parking areas and airport transport.
  • Level 3 - Check-in.

The airport Express Tram operates three stations at concourse A to facilitate easier and faster access to gates and amenities. These are named South Station, Terminal Station and North Station.

Evans Terminal

Named in honour of a former law enforcement officer and politician, the Warren Cleage Evans Terminal is often simply referred to by its earlier name of the North Terminal. Opened towards the end of 2008 to replace the Berry and Smith Terminals, the Evans Terminal consists of two levels:

  • Level 1. Arrivals of international flights and baggage claim, Customs and Border Protection facilities.
  • Level 2. Check-ins and departure areas, gates D1 to D32 on Concourse D.

Among the notable airlines operating from Evans Terminal are:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • American Eagle
  • American Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • United Airlines

A free shuttle service connects the McNamara and Evans Terminals with scheduled departures every ten minutes.

Airport Security and Immigration

All arriving international passengers must pass through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) clearance procedures. Security and immigration controls are located in the McNamara Terminal arrivals area where passengers must declare all food, drink, plants or agricultural items in their possession as well as any currency greater than $10,000.

The following countries are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom. Citizens of these countries generally do not need a visa to enter the United States. However, such visitors will require an ESTA which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is not a physical visa but electronic permission to visit the United States which is digitally linked to a passport.

Intending visitors who do not qualify for ESTA must have a valid U.S. Visa in order to gain entry to the country via an airport or seaport. An ESTA will usually ensure faster processing times at DTW as visa holders must speak directly with a CBP officer and verify personal identification.

Transfers and Ground Transportation

With only two terminals, getting around DTW is quick and easy. Concourses in both terminals have moving walkways for passengers' convenience although everything is within short walking distance. A regular shuttle service connects the terminals and is free of charge to both arriving and departing passengers. There are several options for getting to and from the airport:


SMART, a public bus system, operates several routes between Detroit and DTW. These include Routes 125, 280 and Fast Route 261. There are also AirRide services available running from Detroit Airport to the Ann Arbor area.


A taxi ride to downtown Detroit takes about thirty minutes and taxi stands can be found at both McNamara and Evans Terminals.


Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft both operate out of DTW but must be booked via a downloadable app.

There are no train services directly to the airport so it is necessary to use one of the options listed above.