Just in time for the Christmas crowds, construction crews at the Aspen airport have completed a $2 million project that significantly expands the space for passengers waiting to fly out.
Airport officials eliminated their own administrative offices in favor of adding approximately 1,300 square feet to the departure lounge area, John Kinney, airport director, said Wednesday. The result is a large new gate waiting area on the east side of the terminal outside the restaurant space that features 70 more seats.
In addition, officials moved the gift shop from in front of the restaurant area to the corner of the restaurant space, opening up the area just to the east of the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint and making the eating area more accessible. They also added more waiting area seats in that space for a total of 109 new seats in the departure lounge, according to a Pitkin County news release.
Work on the project began in late August and finished Monday, Kinney said. The new space opened Tuesday.
“We really fast-tracked it,” Kinney said. “We thought it was optimistic to try and open yesterday, but we hit it.”
The new space creates a much larger area for departing passengers, which will come in handy for the huge amount of Christmas and New Year’s visitors, he said. Flights this week will increase from 12 per day to as many as 38 per day through the beginning of 2020, according to a county news release.
Other new amenities at the airport include 100 new parking spaces and a cellphone waiting lot.
Administration offices are temporarily in the Airport Operation Center on the opposite side of the airport from the terminal. Construction crews are building a new office area on the east side of the facility, near where a tent is being constructed to house overflow baggage.
The $2 million for the project came from the airport fund, which collects airport-related fees from airlines, rental car companies and others, and not the county’s general fund. Kinney said airlines were in on the renovation and will end up paying for it over the next five years.
Meanwhile, the county vision process looking at a new, larger terminal and expanded runway for the airport is continuing. A 28-member committee is now working on recommendations for Pitkin County commissioners, who will eventually decide how big the new terminal will be and whether the runway will move to accommodate larger planes.
A new airport terminal and runway, if approved, won’t come online for at least four years, Kinney said.