COVID-19 pandemic puts airport terminal projects on pause, while others move forward

Earlier this year, Raleigh-Durham International Airport was on pace to expand its Terminal 1 from nine gates to as many as 22 and proceed with a new security checkpoint and a consolidated rental car facility.

The planned improvements were an example of what airports across the country have been undertaking to make their terminal facilities more spacious, comfortable, convenient and efficient for air travelers.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, sharply curtailing air travel.

“I’d say we slammed the brakes on it,” said Michael Landguth, the airport’s president and CEO, with no certainty about when the effort would resume.

Halfway across the country, Kansas City International Airport is moving forward with a new $1.5 billion terminal that’s been in the works for many years.

“We’ve been fortunate through this pandemic,” said Patrick Klein, director of aviation for Kansas City, Missouri.

The two airports illustrate the uneven impact of the pandemic on airport terminal projects, with some moving forward and others left in the dust.

COVID-19 traveler decline hits airports hard, too

On Wednesday, nearly 587,000 travelers passed through airport security checkpoints, up from below 100,000 some days in April but still far down from the 2.3 million recorded on the same day a year ago, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Not only has the drop in passenger traffic badly hit airlines, it has slammed airports, too. Airports rely on passengers to spend money at retail establishments and restaurants and buy airplane tickets — which include a passenger facility fee — to support a revenue stream that pays for terminal improvements.

Matt Cornelius, executive vice president at the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), a trade group, said the pandemic has been “devastating” for airports.

“People aren’t parking, shopping at the shops and eating at the restaurants,” he said. “It’s a difficult time.”

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