My Sneak Preview of the New Indianapolis Airport That Opens Tonight

Next stop on the roadtrip: Indianapolis. My main reason for being here was a visit with the in-laws, but while I was in town, I was able to arrange a tour of the brand-spanking new Indianapolis Airport that opens tonight, November 11. Ok, so it’s not actually a new airport in that the runways aren’t moving, but the new terminal completely replaces the old one, which will be knocked down. The new terminal is also in a completely different location and requires using a new exit from a different freeway. Needless to say, they’ve been promoting the heck out of this thing here in Indy before it opens for departures tomorrow (November 12) so people don’t get lost. (Arrivals after 8p tonight will come in to the new building for positioning, but departures don’t begin until tomorrow.) There’s a lot of good and some bad with this new terminal, but let’s just start with an overview map of the area and work our way through.

New IND Terminal Location

As you can see, the new exit is further from downtown, but it is a dedicated exit for the airport that has no stoplights along the way as is the case currently. It’s about a mile from the exit until you get to the terminal itself which sits between the two runways, so yes, it’s going to be a longer drive for most people who use the airport. The first thing you realize on your drive in is that there is PLENTY of room for expansion here. It’s almost reminiscent of Denver when you drive through flat emptiness for awhile before the terminal rises out of the ground. As you can imagine, that means there’s plenty of room for parking.

Parking is actually cheaper than it is in the old location. Daily maximum for the garage is only $16 (down from $22) and economy lots are as cheap as $7 a day. Through December, the airport is offering a free day or parking when you have at least two days. Click here for the coupon.

The terminal itself is set up very well in that traffic flows don’t cross each other often. Departing passengers will either come in on the second level at the curb or via the garage which is sort of on a level 1.5 that requires you to go up a half story for ticketing or down a half story for baggage. When you go up to ticketing, the ticket counters are on the left and right while straight ahead is the enormous, round Civic Plaza area to get to the gates. From here, you’ll see entrances to both concourses on opposite sides of the plaza surrounded by shops and restaurants. Here’s a video of the area:

The Civic Plaza is one area I just don’t understand. Sure, the open space is nice for people who are waiting for loved ones, but I can’t see the shops and restaurants doing very well. Anyone who is flying out is going to want to go through security and then relax whereas those people flying in aren’t going to want to hang out for a beer in the airport after they arrive. These shops will likely only cater to people waiting for people to arrive, so I’ll bet that they’re going to suffer. Besides, if I had to pick someone up at the airport, I’d plant myself in front of the huge picture window and just watch the planes go by, and I wouldn’t be shopping.

So, let’s get back to what matters here. There are two concourses, A and B, that can be entered from opposite sides of the Civic Plaza. It’s seems strange that A is on your right and B is on your left, but they named it this way since you drive in from the right and come upon A first. Unlike in the four concourses that exist today, these two are connected behind security so you never have to leave security unless you’re leaving the airport.

Speaking of security, they have it set up well here with plenty of room for lines, a dedicated CLEAR lane, and several gates and scanners on both sides. Over on the A side, you’ll find the gates dominated by Delta/Northwest with Continental as well. There are also two international-equipped gates on this side but obviously no international service as of yet. Over on B, you’ll find all the other airlines: Air Canada, AirTran, American, Frontier, Midwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways.

When you enter the concourses, there are three gates off to the left in B/right in A while the other 17 gates lie on the other side of each concourse for a grand total of 40, 7 more than in the current airport. In case you were wondering, there is plenty of room for expansion here as well if it’s needed.

The airport gets points for using local brands on the concourses. I’d highly recommend a stop at Shapiro’s deli over on B. I’ve been to two locations in town and they have really good food. It’s definitely the place to stop if you want to grab a sandwich for the road.

The concourses themselves are wide and airy and are filled with art. More importantly, they’re filled with a free wi-fi signal as well. On the plus side, there are laptop charging stations, but unfortunately there are no Power Charging Station and Seatspower outlets near the seats. You would think that a place designed in this day and age would have ample power outlet access throughout the seating area so people could recharge without going to some power charging location. Also, they’re taking bets here that the airlines won’t have interminably long delays. The seats have fixed armrests that make lying down impossible unless you’re Kate Moss-skinny and can squeeze underneath.

If you’re on an arriving flight, you head back towards security where they’ve actually done a good job of separating the entrance and exit so you don’t get tangled up here with opposing flows. North Baggage Claim Close-UpYou’ll walk back through the Civic Plaza and then head downstairs to baggage claim. There are six bag carousels with three on each side of the hall. Once you grab your bag, you can either walk out to the curb for pickup or you can head up a half level to go back through the tunnel to the parking garage.

If you need ground transportation or a rental car, you go back to the garage and then downstairs. In the old airport, you have to take a shuttle to get to rental cars, but they’ve actually put all the cars on the bottom floor of the garage in the new airport so it’s much easier.

So that’s it. Of course, the big question here is . . . how much will it raise operating costs at the airport? A brand new $1.1 billion terminal project has to be paid for somehow, and it’s going to fall on the shoulders of the airlines, as usual. Higher operating costs make it harder to maintain flights. So, I’ll be watching closely to see how much this new airport impacts the ability to keep flights at the airport. For more on this, see my BNET post on the economics of the new airport.

Links
All of my pictures and videos of the new airport
New Indianapolis Airport website with map
Indianapolis Star special section on the new airport

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