Imagine a window of time of about three to four hours to move five airlines, the Transportation Security Administration and food and retail vendors from one airport terminal to another.
That’s what officials at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport are looking at when the new terminal opens June 3.
“It’s a complex and really carefully orchestrated move … that takes place in a really short window,” Victor White, the city’s director of airports, said Thursday. “There will be tweaking of a lot of things for months to come, but that doesn’t stop us from opening.”
On Thursday, Wichita officials announced the opening date of the $160 million terminal. The first airplane will depart from the new terminal at 5 a.m., an American Airlines flight, and the first airplane to arrive will be at 9:45 a.m., a Southwest Airlines flight, said Valerie Wise, the city’s air service and business development manager.
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City officials also said Thursday that two parts of the airport project – the $40 million parking garage and rental car center – will open May 27, a week before the terminal.
The four-level garage has 1,200 stalls, 800 of which are covered. With the opening of the garage, the airport’s current long-term and short-term lots will close for a resurfacing project that is expected to be completed this fall.
For airport staff, White said, it will be “an all-hands-on-deck” situation once the final flight arrives at the existing terminal at around midnight June 2. Once the remaining passengers have picked up their bags and left the building, the old terminal will be closed to the public and the moving will begin.
That includes towing any aircraft that are parked overnight from the current terminal to the new one, White said.
He said the airlines that serve Eisenhower National – Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest and United – are currently training their employees on the new terminal, such as teaching them how to operate the new passenger bridges and use the public address system.
“There’s an awful lot of training taking place behind the scenes – same thing with the food and beverage guys,” White said.
The food and beverage options at the new terminal include a Grab and Fly snack shop, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, River City Brewing Co. and Air Capital Bar.
He said some of the moving is already underway. On Thursday, he said, workers were stocking the CNBC Smartshop and Air Capital Market gift shop with merchandise.
Work on the 275,000-square-foot terminal began in September 2012. Construction of the new terminal and parking garage, together a $200 million project, was paid for through a combination of federal grants and surplus airport revenue and fees, White said.
“The point of it is … no local tax money,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Longwell, at his briefing with reporters Thursday morning, underscored the importance of the opening of the new terminal to travelers coming to Wichita for the first time.
“This is an airport, if you haven’t seen it, that is really going to change the front door of Wichita dramatically,” Longwell said.
Contributing: Gabriella Dunn of The Eagle