April 29, 2005 in Business

Airport hopes to reduce travel stress

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane air travelers later this year will see significant makeovers at Spokane International Airport affecting security systems and food services.

Airport officials say they want to make air travel simpler and more pleasant.

“The goal is to reduce anxiety and stress for people going through the security checkpoint,” said Spokane airport spokesman Todd Woodard.

No definite plan to relocate the airport’s federal screening checkpoint in the main terminal has been adopted.

But airport board members recently approved a $49,000 contract with two firms to consider both the security system relocation and improved food and retail concessions at the airport.

Airport officials conducted a survey of passengers to identify problems and ways to make travel in the post-9/11 era less stressful.

“The strongest feedback (in the survey) was from passengers who said they wanted less anxiety going through the security lines,” said Woodard.

An initial redesign has proposed taking the federal security checkpoint away from the rotunda, or large central area leading to the A and B concourses.

The federal screeners would be moved to an expanded and remodeled area closer to the main terminal entry, in an area partially used by airport police, said Woodard.

If deemed practical, that relocation would start later this year and cost roughly $6 million, he added. The airport would rely on funds from passenger ticket fees set aside for security improvements.

In addition to relocating the main security checkpoint, the airport has a goal of adding more family “meeting and greeting” space at the C Concourse screening checkpoint, said Woodard.

Coffman Engineers, of Spokane, and Smart Design Group, of Vancouver, British Columbia, have a contract to study the relocation and concessions changes.

Dereck Starks, the federal security director at Spokane’s airport, said he backed the relocation “conceptually.” As long as the relocation maintains or heightens security while making the airport more passenger-friendly, Starks said he approves.

Also later this year, the airport will call for bids for the airport concessions contract. The current contract, with CA One Services, Inc., has been in place for about 20 years.

Airport officials say they’d like to see more sit-down options on both sides of the security checkpoint, as well as an expanded central restaurant. Airport travelers in Spokane have complained that once past security, they have minimal food and beverage choices.

The passenger survey and other studies found a preference for a mix of national brands and regional foods including fresh salads, according to Woodard. Airports in Portland, Minneapolis and other cities have already made similar changes and seen higher passenger satisfaction, Woodard added.

More variety and more food and retail concessions can lead to increased revenue for the airport. Spokane’s airport collected revenue of $746,723 in 2004 just from food and beverage sales, according to airport statistics.

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