It’s been described as doing open heart surgery on a patient that’s awake. Building a new terminal can be challenging, as anyone who has gone through LaGuardia in the last couple years knows. But with Salt Lake City opening the first part of its new terminal this month, I thought it would be interesting to look through how the construction has been phased… along with what’s next.
To start, let’s look at the old Salt Lake terminals. There were technically three terminals from east to west: Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and the International Terminal. These were connected to five concourses lettered from A to E, also from east to west. Everything was connected behind security.
This hodge-podge of a terminal complex was built a really long time ago with a capacity of less than half the passengers who actually used the airport before the pandemic. Of course, Delta has made this a major mountain hub, so it has been bursting at the seams for some time. Anyone who has ever flown on a regional flight out of the god-forsaken Concourse E knows what I’m talking about.
There’s been an effort to build a new terminal for a really long time, but as is always the case, it took years to come together. The new plan has a single terminal with two parallel concourses, but it was placed to overlap the existing terminal by a fair bit, so phasing was required.
The first thing to do was to destroy the bottom half of Concourse E, remove the evil spirits that obviously inhabited the place, and then shut the rest of the place down.
This work allowed them to build what they’re calling Concourse A West along with the new terminal headhouse. At the same time, they’ve been building Concourse B West, but that is set to open in the second phase.
When the new terminal and Concourse A was ready to open this month, there was a lot of talk about how exactly to phase things. The pandemic allowed them to really smooth out the process and cut down the complexity of the plan.
When the new A opened, Delta moved in. Concourse D was shut down, but the other three concourses in the old terminal remained open. Concourse C is the same and is exclusively used by Delta. The old Concourse B had to be re-lettered to make room for the new B, so it’s now F. It serves Delta, Southwest, and United. Then the old A is now G, and that’s where Alaska, American, Frontier, and JetBlue fly. In other words, it’s the cats and dogs concourse.
This is how it looked when it opened, and it’s how things stand today.
This is, to be kind, not ideal. The old ticketing/baggage areas have all been shut down, so travelers have to check in at the new terminal and then walk through the connector into the old gate areas. If you’re flying on any airline but Delta, leave some extra time.
This, fortunately, is just temporary until October 27. That’s when Concourse B West will open for the first time, and all the cats and dogs move in (along with more gates for Delta). When that happens, the old terminal will stop being used completely. You can thank the pandemic for that quick shift.
A will be connected to B via an underground tunnel. What’s interesting here is that this tunnel was built a decade ago and is just temporary. It’ll be temporary for a long time, but it’s not the final plan.
This configuration will exist until — as currently planned — December 2024. During that time, the old terminals and concourses will all be knocked down. (Demolition is actually already underway around the old parking garage.) Then they can build the rest of Concourse A. It will look like this:
As I understand it, Delta will be on A and everyone else will go on B. There will also be hardstands for some regional flights, if demand requires it. That’s going to be a feature for some time, it seems. They’ll park the airplanes behind B, I believe.
The final phase isn’t currently scheduled. It sounds like this will be planned out as demand warrants. This will result in the completion of the rest of B and the new tunnel.
And there you have it. The moral of this story? If you’re flying before October 27, bring walking shoes and leave extra time. But starting October 27 things should be rather nice in the new digs.