Travel & Tourism

Ford Airport plans new gates for more flights, single security checkpoint

November 30, 2012
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Gerald R. Ford International Airport is served by five passenger airlines with 120 daily non-stop flights to and from 23 major market destinations.Photo via fb.com

An expansion project being planned at Gerald R. Ford International Airport would add two gates to Concourse B and create a single security checkpoint.

Currently, the airport has 13 gates, only one of which is vacant. That is not ideal, according to Phil Johnson, airport deputy executive director. He said it is better for airports to have a few additional gates available to accommodate an increase in flights or interest from new carriers.

Johnson said to remain competitive airports must anticipate airline needs and ensure they aren’t scrambling to accommodate growth. With projects of this nature taking anywhere from three to 10 years to complete, he said it is especially important for airlines to be in front of changes in the marketplace.

In particular, the airport is anticipating that the merger of AirTran with Southwest Airlines will soon lead to a conversion to Southwest Airlines and possibly an increase in flights, which would necessitate additional gates.

The airport is also paying close attention to American Airlines, which has been in bankruptcy and could also merge with another airline in the near future, also requiring additional gates.

The airport plans to add the gates in 2013. In addition, it will also begin design plans to consolidate its two security checkpoints into one.

“We have had some problems over the last couple of years with the lines and ability to get people through our checkpoints in a timely fashion,” Johnson said. “We currently have two checkpoints; they are on Concourse A and Concourse B. Those are in narrow hallways. We don’t have a lot of space.

“We were not designed for the increase that we saw in security after the 2011 terrorist attack. We’ve done the best we can, but we are at a point now where we are going to have to physically expand the exterior wall of the building to accommodate people.”

The plan is to build out the exterior wall of the Grand Hall, which is currently the airport waiting area and also houses its gift shop.

The expansion would also allow the airport to add retail and concessions, including a sit-down restaurant, beyond the new security checkpoint to better accommodate travelers.

In recent years hungry travelers have faced limited options beyond security, something Johnson hopes the new design will help to solve.

The consolidated checkpoint is still in the early stages, but the airport board has approved budget numbers to begin the process. Currently, the total project cost is estimated at $22 million. The design phase of the project is expected to cost $3.3 million. The airport is considering funding options for the project, which isn’t expected to start in full until 2014 at the earliest.

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