Statistics show U.S. airports are getting a real workout when it comes to accommodating travelers. And not surprisingly, many of the nation’s airports are feeling the pressure of upgrading, especially in big cities where high volume (not to mention high cost) makes it hard to engage in major construction.
The numbers say it all: The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in 2018, domestic airlines carried some 815.7 million passengers. While that figure is down from 2017’s record 848.7 million, it’s still almost 90 million more flyers than were counted at the start of the decade.
That's why a number of airports around the nation are undergoing massive upgrades -- expansions, renovations and the like -- to keep up with the increasing number of flyers. The following six airport improvement projects aim to provide more efficient check-in, easier boarding and greater amenities; changes that we hope will make life easier for planners and attendees traveling by air.
U.S. Airports Getting Major Upgrades
1. Salt Lake City International Airport Improvements
A $3.6 billion reconstruction project is underway at Salt Lake City International Airport, where a brand-new terminal will welcome passengers in 2020.
The SLC building is phase one in a two-phase project to be completed by 2024. The improved facility promises “more space and convenience” thanks to:
- Easy way-finding
- Moving walkways
- Roomy gates with ample seating and charging stations
- An expanded concessions program
- A dedicated meet-and-greet area for arrivals
- A plaza with a large window overlooking the airfield.
- A 45-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall with mountain views for passengers to enjoy
The original terminal is gradually being demolished as parts of the new complex are unveiled. Aiming for LEED Gold certification, the new and updated airport facility will feature one large central terminal connected to two concourses by a passenger tunnel.
2. LaGuardia Airport Updates
Late last year, New York City’s LaGuardia Airport opened a new modernized concourse in Terminal B, where passengers flying American, United, Southwest and Air Canada airlines now find:
- Soaring ceilings
- Floor-to-ceiling windows
- Live trees
- Spacious restrooms
- Upscale stores and restaurants
- An indoor park
- A children’s play area
JetBlue Airways, in February, also completed modest improvements to LaGuardia’s tiny Terminal A.
But the work here has only just begun. Still to come is a renovation of the rest of Terminal B, including a second concourse and the “Headhouse” — essentially a new check-in lobby — both of which will open in 2020.
Terminals C and D are being replaced by a single terminal for Delta Air Lines. Opening in 2021, it promises:
- Wider concourses
- Larger gate areas
- More seating
- A new Delta Sky Club
All of this is part of an $8 billion project that also will build a pedestrian walkway spanning the entire airport and will add a rail link to the New York City subway system.
3. Stewart International Airport Expansions
Stewart International Airport is in the midst of a $30 million expansion project that will benefit passengers traveling to and from New York’s Hudson Valley, 70 miles north of Manhattan.
Scheduled for completion in 2020, the project will expand the airport’s terminal by 19,850 square feet to accommodate a new customs inspection area — something the airport currently lacks but needs thanks to an influx of international passengers aboard Norwegian Air, which began service here in 2017.
The expanded facility is expected to take some traffic off the busy tarmacs of the region’s three major airports.
4. Denver International Airport Enhancements
In spring 2018, Denver International Airport broke ground on a $1.5 billion gate expansion that will add capacity to each of its three concourses. Scheduled for completion by spring 2021, the project will add a total of 39 new gates -- a 35 percent increase in the number of boarding positions. More passenger amenities are in the works, as well, including:
- Restaurants and shops
- Extra charging stations
- An outdoor lounge
A separate $1.8 billion airport improvement project is underway in the main terminal and is due for completion by the end of 2021. The work includes consolidating the ticketing areas and revamping and relocating the security screening area. A reimagining of the Great Hall will replace the airport’s existing security area with:
- New pre- and post-security concessions
- A children’s play area
- A new welcome area for arrivals
5. Orlando International Airport Advancements
In 2018, ground was broken on the South Terminal Complex at Orlando International Airport, a $2.1 billion airport upgrade that will include 16 new gates and the Boulevard, which the airport’s executive director Phil Brown calls “a state-of-the-art, multimedia technology corridor.”
Running the length of the terminal, it will feature new:
- Subtropical greenery
- A baggage-handling system with radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to track luggage
- Large windows and skylights
Construction is scheduled to wind up in 2020.
6. Kansas City International Airport Renovations
In November 2017, residents of Kansas City, Mo., voted in favor of building a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport. Plans call for replacing the airport’s current three-building layout with a single unified terminal that will increase convenience and efficiency for passengers and airlines alike. The new facility, which airport officials call “modern and uniquely Kansas City,” is scheduled to open in 2022 on the site of the existing Terminal A, which already is closed.
Highlights of the plan include:
- A large glass atrium
- Separate levels for arrivals and departures
- Additional restrooms
- 39 gates with spacious waiting areas
Security wait times should shrink thanks to the installation of “high throughput” devices capable of screening four passengers at a time as well as an automatic tray return, both of which promise to reduce security wait times.