FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Call it the new, new Fort Wayne International Airport experience.
In a couple of years, you’ll be able to arrive at the expanded check-in areas on the ground floor, go through a larger TSA security checkpoint and then ride the escalator up to the second floor where you can relax in a restaurant while waiting for your flight, WANE TV learned during an exclusive interview with Scott Hinderman, executive director of Fort Wayne Airports.
It won’t be back to the old days when you could take the family out for Sunday dinner at Baer Field and watch the planes arrive and depart.
But the 40,000 square-foot expansion – bringing total square footage to nearly 160,000 square-feet – is necessary to accommodate the larger aircraft flying into Fort Wayne and may even entice increased flights, Hinderman said.
“By doing this project, we will make sure we can keep and maintain the existing service that we have,” Hinderman said at the construction site Tuesday. “As the smaller aircraft are going away and we are into the larger aircraft, we need to be able to accommodate what we have, but certainly we are working with the airlines for future destinations as well as frequency to our existing routes.”
“While there’s no guarantees in life, I don’t have any contract with any carriers to serve city Z, Y, Z, we certainly are working towards, with the airlines, some additional destinations once we’re done with this project,” Hinderman continued.
The west construction, which includes the check-in gates on the ground floor and Gates 5-10 on the upper level, started in June 2021 and should be completed in a two-year time period. Cost for this renovation is about $55 million and is covered by a mix of local, state and federal grants, and includes bonding, Hinderman said.
Sometime this September, Gates 8, 9 and 10 will open.
Renovations that include a new expanded seating area at the American Airlines and Allegiant check-in desks on the ground floor are already done. The west expansion will add two new gates, but three more ports because Gate 10 will be a double, accessed by an extended enclosed outdoor walkway, Hinderman said.
When the new gates open, Gates 5, 6, and 7 will be closed for renovations. Windows in the passenger seating area will expand another 14 feet toward the runway area, removing the necessity for so many passengers to stand when boarding takes place, Hinderman said. Renovations to the United and Delta check-in areas are currently taking place.
The east expansion due to start as the west expansion window closes is expected to cost around $50 million of which $13.8 million was just awarded as part of a $1 billion federal distribution through the Infrastructure Law for airport terminal improvement projects. If there’s enough money, there may be changes to the baggage collection area as well, Hinderman said.
In that expansion, gates 1-4, now ground level boarding, will be raised to allow second story level boarding, Hinderman said. That’s the area where the new restaurant is planned. Hinderman said some passengers worried they might miss their flight will be able to come and relax at the restaurant before the flight.
The east expansion will also include improvements to the TSA security check, expanding that area that can be somewhat cramped when a swell of passengers arrives. Overall, the airport will be updating HVAC equipment, Hinderman said.
Not only is the number of passengers getting back to 2019, pre-COVID levels of 400,000 a year, but the aircraft flying into Fort Wayne are getting bigger. No longer are the planes the typical 50-seaters, but often seat between 66 and 76 passengers, Hinderman said. With the bigger aircraft comes the need for bigger gates, hence the need for expansion.
The renovations cover the terminal, Hinderman said. The runway infrastructure is in “great shape to handle our activities and future growth,” he added.
Solar energy may be a thing later, but for now residents might be interested to know that the airport parking lot is net-zero. That means energy saved during the day is used at night, he said.
One thing that won’t change?
The volunteer greeters and cookies when you arrive back home.