By Molly Priddy, 1-04-13
||Caption: Rendering courtesy of Glacier Park International Airport
It’s a new year, and for Glacier Park International Airport, that means a new look to help address passenger needs and keep the airport competitive for future airline business.
A major, $2 million remodel will begin at GPIA on Jan. 14 and finish up on May 15, according to airport director Cindi Martin. The terminal is 15 years old, and accommodates half a million people a year as they arrive and depart, she said.
“There are bits and pieces that are starting to show some wear and tear,” Martin said.
Along with wearing down with use, the terminal was built pre-Sept. 11, meaning it wasn’t designed for the space that security measures now need.
“We tried to squeeze a post-9/11 world, the evolving world, into it,” Martin said.
Some of the biggest changes passengers will notice will be the expansion of the security area and the expansion in the lower-level passenger seating area. The glass walls surrounding the security lines will move out to the columns in the room, Martin said, giving the airport room for a third security line or more queuing space.
The security area will also provide more divesting area – the space travelers need to get ready to go through security – which should make it a more efficient experience, Martin said, because divesting is what typically takes the longest.
The glass wall separating the passengers waiting for flights and those who wait to welcome them through the secure area exit will be shifted to the columns in the main terminal area as well, providing more space for waiting travelers.
And, along with a wall providing outlets and workspace, the new area will include a gift shop and will no longer be manned by security personnel surveying the secure exits, which is a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirement, Martin said. Instead, there will be two, TSA-approved revolving doors, which will save the airport staffing costs.
The remodel will also give the airport the opportunity to make the GPIA experience more personal for travelers, Martin said. This includes removing overhangs that block natural light and adding mountain-silhouette wall hangings overhead instead, which will have a controlled light effect to mirror Montana’s environment, such as mimicking alpen glow, she said.
Carpet in the area will be replaced with new flooring designed to look like a flowing river, guiding passengers to baggage claim, and the ceiling is already shaped to imitate the sky.
“There (will be) a sense of place,” Martin said. “You’re going to know where you are without it being too obvious.”
All of the restrooms in the airport will be updated with uniform material to give the airport a cohesive look and provide for easier cleaning.
Upstairs, the small bistro will shift to where the upstairs gift shop currently sits, Martin said, and that gift shop will relocate downstairs. The space that now holds the bistro will be used instead as a passenger seating area with outlets and work stations, which will be expanded out over the alcove of empty space that currently sits between the stairs and the elevator.
That space will turn into secure storage, Martin said.
GPIA likely will never have an airline club for passengers to visit, Martin said, but the goal of the remodel is to provide more comfort for everyone because people fly differently these days than they did 15 years ago.
“We want to make the post-security experience club-like for everybody,” she said.
Martin said the remodel would be an efficient project, with crews repurposing most of the materials already in place. Ninety percent of the $2 million for the remodel comes from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, the funding for which comes from taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets.
The other 10 percent comes form GPIA, Martin said.
With only five months to finish the project, crews will complete loud work at night and wall off other areas under construction, Martin said. The project was awarded to Kalispell-based Hammerquist Casalegno Inc.
With a new look and better service for passengers, Martin said the remodel could also help bring in new business from airlines as well. But overall, it is important to define the airport’s role in the Flathead, she added.
“We know that for many people this is the first and last impression of the area, and we want it to be good,” Martin said.
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