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


17 Responses to My Sneak Preview of the New Indianapolis Airport That Opens Tonight

  1. Dave S says:

    2 thoughts… First seems very much like the new terminal at JAX. Same sort of arraignment. They have a rather nice concession area prior to security as well and it does quite well. Many people enjoy sitting with their family and friends after checking in and enjoying a meal as security rarely has a long wait and can be seen from the concessions area.

    Secondly, with this new road to the new terminal, could be prime land to put some non-aviation businesses and make money for the airport of lease rates. Same thing goes for the area where the old terminal is.

    Just my 2 cents!
    Dave

  2. Zach says:

    You mentioned that there are gates equipped to handle long-haul traffic. Do you foresee the introduction (or re-introduction) of Indianapolis as an international gateway for any of the airlines in the foreseeable future? I always thought Indy would be a nice alternative to Chicago for people connecting to Europe from the West Coast and smaller midwest markets, and it would take some pressure off of O’Hare. Obviously, NW has always had its Minny and Detroit (and, to a lesser extent, Memphis) hubs to essentially serve that purpose, but with the changes brought about by the merger, it seems Indy is gunning to elbow itself into the action. Any chance that, for instance, DL will come into Indianapolis with a couple of high-traffic trans-Atlantic routes (perhaps London, Amsterdam, or Paris) to try and lure connecting pax away from UA and AA at O’Hare and redistribute some of the load from the ATL hub?

  3. Rich says:

    I’m in agreeent with Dave. Let’s see how this plays out. There’s nothing worse than (1) waiting to pick someone up with no possibility of getting a Coke, a candy bar, a newspaper, while waiting because all the shops are on the other side of security, or (2) Getting dropped at the airport too early to check-in, with no possibility of…

  4. Just discovered your site Cranky and I’m very impressed with the detail you have shared in this post – what a fantastic resource, both for consumers and for travel agents, who can use it to check things out from a real ‘insider’ perspective!

    Thanks.

  5. CF says:

    Dave/Rich – I definitely can see the point of a Starbucks kiosk or a McDonalds for those who are waiting, but there is a lot more than that. There’s even a Brooks Brothers.

    I would also imagine that number of people who get dropped off before they could check in for their flight will be pretty minimal. That usually happens when you’re interlining between airlines (like flying internationally in to the US and then connecting to Southwest). That won’t happen here.

    Zach – I would be really surprised to see any international flights in the near future. Now, if a 757 could make it over to Paris, we might see that, but it may be just too far. I couldn’t imagine a Heathrow slot being used for something like this. They’re just too expensive.

  6. Rich says:

    Oh, maybe not Cranky, you mean you’ve never had the impulsive need to buy a dark-blue single-breasted suit while waiting to pick someone up? There may be another alternative… having a large shopping area may make the airport a destination all its own, and if air travel is reduced, the airport authority can convert the place to an outlet mall…

  7. CF says:

    Rich – Now THAT’s good thinking! But they’ll need a lot more than 30 minutes free in the garage . . . ;)

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  9. Zach says:

    Hmm…DL could use newly acquired NW 757s from Indy to Dublin for connections to the rest of Europe on partner airlines (obviously, this isn’t happening, but it would be an interesting experiment). You’re right about Heathrow being too expensive to waste on a flight from a market like IND, but does the Open Skies agreement (or DL’s agreement with LHR) prevent them from flying into Gatwick or Stansted?

  10. David says:

    A couple of point about Indy. IND is almost entirely an origination/destination airport, so having some retail and dining pre-security makes a lot of sense. The old IND had a food court in the pre-security area and it did well.

    With respect to international flights, IND has had and will have season international service to Cancun and has service to Toronto. Also, the city’s big event and convention business will benefit from upgraded international facilities for charters. Brett’s right that new scheduled service will take some work.

    IND also benefits from not being a hub, although the new Delta will have a presence of about 35 percent. IND is known at present for its low fares.

  11. rob says:

    I agree with Zach that Indy to Dublin could work, and possibly Indy to Shannon as well.

    On another note, I do find it odd that there doesn’t seem to be an airport lounge. Considering Delta/Northwest takes up all but two gates in Concourse A (and even those two are held by fellow SkyTeam member Continental), it seems like it would have been a perfect fit for a Crown Room or a WorldClub.

  12. CF says:

    One correction on my last comment. I’m told that the first 30 mins in the garage are no longer free. So, you’ll have to pay no matter what now.

    Zach – Nothing that I know of saying they can’t go to Gatwick or Stansted, but then there’s no feed on the other end at all. There’s no way this flight can be supported solely on Indy originating and destination traffic.

    David – Cancun was from Frontier, right? I wonder if that will actually be coming back. They’ve cut back a lot. I don’t really count Canada as international since there is preclearance for those flights. People departing and arriving don’t need any special treatment.

  13. David says:

    Cancun was ATA, then Frontier, then NWA, I think. Scheduled to resume in January.

  14. CF says:

    David – Oh wow, I didn’t realize that NW was flying it. Very cool.

  15. Mallory says:

    How do you get from the old airport to the new airport? I know the old one was exit 11A off 465, so where is the new one? I know its exit 68 off I70 West, but what exit off 465 do you take to get onto I70West? Isn’t it right around the old one? So between exit 10-13???

  16. David says:

    Take a look at http://www.indianapolisairport.com/map.aspx

    The exit from I-465 to I-70 is Exit 9.

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