Dayton officials said the two-year, nearly $29 million project to reconstruct the city’s airport terminal could help it become more competitive with other regional airports.
During the first-phase project, the airport widened TSA lanes, created a full glass and steel exterior with a new glass canopy, moved the USO to better serve military passengers, constructed new restrooms and added terrazzo tiles, a new HVAC, LED lighting along the front curb and a CNBC Express kiosk.
“A modern and vibrant airport is a sign of a progressive and forward city. When we had started this project one of our goals was that this was a welcoming gateway to the city of Dayton,” John Fabel, partner at downtown LWC Architects, said during a Tuesday event to celebrate the finished project. “We wanted to make sure that the terminal was an example of flight.”
The Dayton airport, while known by many passengers as quick and convenient, has seen decreasing passenger traffic for more than a decade. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of passengers boarding a plane at the airport dropped nearly 38 percent from 1.47 million to 906,000.
Through September of this year, 668,223 people have boarded planes in Dayton, more than 10,000 fewer passengers than at the same point last year.
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“We’re looking to talk to additional low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines, Frontier, Allegiant and possibly Southwest to come back to this airport, and with that that would help us lower costs, bring costs down, (with) more competition,” Interim Airport Director Gil Turner said. “When we have a low-cost carrier that increases competition and the legacy carriers will compete…and bring fares down.”
The original airport terminal was completed in 1958, and the last major project that impacted the passenger experience took place in 2011 with the creation of a new, inline baggage system, former airport director Terry Slaybaugh previously told the Dayton Daily News.
Prior to that, there hadn’t been a major project since the 1980s.
“I think more people will fly out of this airport and hopefully it will attract more airlines to operate out of this airport,” Turner said. “I do believe that this will be a catalyst for additional air service.”
Hand-in-hand with dropping passenger enplanements, the Dayton airport has risen to the top five most expensive of the largest 100 airports in the country by passenger count.
Dayton’s average airfare was as low as $349 during the second quarter of 2009, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Now 10 years later it has grown to nearly $438.
The new terrazzo floor features 20 full-size airplanes that are significant in the history of Dayton as the birthplace of aviation, he said.
The front terminal has already received LEED Gold designation, the first of any City of Dayton project, according to a statement from the city. The newly built rental car building is on track to receive LEED Silver designation, according to a statement.
Phase two of terminal modernization is still years away, Turner said, but will include expansion of concessions at the airport. Further phases are expected, but the airport will wait to see how enplanements may grow in the near future before determining what will come next.
“This is new to me. I was here last October,” said Annick Woodlock of Georgia, who previously lived in Dayton for 17 years while working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and was flying into town Tuesday. “It’s very modern looking. It’s very fresh, and I really like it. I was amazed.”
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