Atlanta Airport – and others – get bigger

The world’s busiest passenger airport is getting bigger.

Today, May 16, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport opens the new $1.4 billion Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, named in honor of the city’s first black mayor.

“The opening of the international terminal is huge for Atlanta,” said the airport’s Aviation General Manager Louis Miller. “It gives international passengers their own terminal with its own entrance, it ends the baggage recheck process for Atlanta–bound passengers, and it enhances the airport’s overall capacity now and for the future.”

The opening of Atlanta airport’s new terminal comes on the heels of some other high-profile — and pricey — terminal openings in 2011, most notably San Francisco International Airport’s $388 million renovated Terminal 2 in April and Sacramento International Airport’s $1 billion new terminal in October.

The airport upgrades don’t stop there. Here are six more projects you may spy next time you fly:

Las Vegas

On June 27, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas will open “T3,” a new high-tech, $2.4 billion terminal that will serve both international and domestic flights.

“Our plans for T3 include self-boarding podiums at all 14 gates, self-service kiosks equipped for customers to print and affix their own baggage tags, and a robust [free] wireless Internet system that will extend out to the ramp and allow customers to log on whether they’re inside the terminal or aboard an aircraft parked at the gate,” said Randall H. Walker, director for the Clark County Department of Aviation.

Miami

This summer, Miami International Airport will open a new federal inspection area at the North Terminal that is twice the size of the existing Concourse E facility. In early 2013, the airport hopes to have the entire multibillion dollar North Terminal project completed. “What remains to be opened are three passenger gates and five of the 10 baggage claim carousels in the international arrivals area,” said Greg Chin, communications director for the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department.

A new AirportLink Metrorail extension that will speed connections to downtown Miami is also being built.

San Diego

San Diego International Airport is halfway through a $1 billion sustainable “Green Build” expansion of its Terminal 2 that is scheduled to be completed in August 2013.

“When complete, Terminal 2 will have 10 new gates, a dual-level roadway to separate arriving and departing passengers, a large, bright concessions core and the largest airport USO in the world,” said Katie Jones, spokesperson for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles International Airport
is building a new $1.5 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal, which will include new concourse areas and gates that will be able to accommodate the superjumbo Airbus A380 airplanes.
Renovations and upgrades are also underway throughout the rest of the airport.

New York

And in New York, Delta Air Lines is spending more than $160 million to renovate Terminals C and D at LaGuardia Airport and more than $1.2 billion on John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4. The LaGuardia project may be completed by the end of 2013; the JFK project, by spring 2013.

That’s a lot of airport-upgrade activity at a time when the economy remains skittish, fuel prices are still sky-high and airlines continue to scale back schedules.

“Airports are investing in modern infrastructure to ensure that their communities, and the companies in them, can successfully compete in an increasingly global economy,” said Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International -North America, an airport membership organization. “These facilities are an investment in our economic future.”

(My story about airport upgrades first appeared on msnbc.com)