Lifting off in a storm: How Salt Lake City’s new airport is ushering in the future of air travel

Members of the media and dignitaries tour the new Salt Lake City International Airport’s main terminal in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. The new airport is set to open on Sept. 15, 2020.

Members of the media and dignitaries tour the new Salt Lake City International Airport’s main terminal in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. The new airport is set to open on Sept. 15, 2020. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News

First new U.S. hub airport in decades could help make Utah the ‘Crossroads of the World’

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s something no other hub airport in the U.S. has pulled off in the current century.

After a span of six years of construction — preceded by about two decades of planning — the Salt Lake City International Airport is about to open its brand-new, $4.1 billion airport on Tuesday, starting with a massive new terminal and its first concourse.

By the end of the year, a second concourse will open, and the old airport will begin to be razed to make way for the east side of Concourse A to be built right over the top of it.

What this means for Utahns and travelers across the globe isn’t just a brand-new, shiny building to replace a more inefficient and aging facility. To airport officials here and nationally, it’s so much more.

“I would dream to see in my career other cities across the country replicate what Salt Lake City has done,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International-North America, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., that represents U.S. and Canadian airports.

“Salt Lake City has taken an airport and turned it into a modern, 21st century facility,” Burke said. “America’s airports need to be modernized, and Salt Lake City has been on the cutting-edge of that.”

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To Burke — and Utah government officials — Salt Lake City’s new airport means the portal from Utah to the rest of the world just got much bigger — and with so much more room to grow. It means the state has solidified its foothold in the global air travel industry — and therefore positioned itself well for future economic growth as a now much more appealing travel touch point, destination, and home base for businesses.

To state leaders, that’s a huge step for their ambitions to brand Utah as not just the “Crossroads of the West,” but the “Crossroads of the World.”

But as masterfully designed, impressive and beautiful as Salt Lake City’s new airport is, an invisible force has sucked some of the air out of its grand opening.

The global coronavirus pandemic has led nationwide flights to plummet, threatening the entire airline industry. After a year of averaging about 2.4 million passengers a day nationwide, that dropped to a low of 87,534 passengers nationwide during the height of COVID-19 closures on April 14, according to Transportation Security Administration checkpoint travel numbers.

In February, Salt Lake City International Airport saw a record high of 30,000 passengers each weekend. But when the pandemic hit home in Utah and the rest of the U.S., that number death spiraled to barely 1,500.

Over the past several months, more travelers have …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

      

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