Another milestone is about to be reached at the ever-changing Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Construction has long been almost a permanent fixture there…crews come and go at the airport, which has been on a multi-year building spree. But this project, $27 million worth, is the big one. As the airport's Heidi Jared told us, "This is very important. It's really all about safety and security."
In the changed-over terminal, security goes downstairs, new dining and shopping upstairs...where only ticketed passengers can go. Jared says that's "a trend that's post-9/11. About 80% of the concessions, shopping, restaurants, are moving at airports past security."
They expect the 4 million folks who go through the airport every year will be impressed by the makeover: high ceilings, massive windows to see the planes and a woodsy-Tahoe interior theme. The money comes from a bond issue and federal grants. $7 million comes from those shops and restaurants. The rest? Check out the fee on your ticket. The airport's Brian Kulpin says "It's about $4.50. We've been banking that money to pay for this project."
Business is still good at the airport, but flights are down slightly. Ticket prices are up with jet fuel costs. Southwest trimmed its flights to Oakland. Kulpin told us, "A lot of airports that are medium hub airports, which is what Reno-Tahoe is, in the past 10 years have seen a 46% drop in what is called the short-haul traffic to closer cities."
And there is that merger of American Airlines and US Airways. Both fly here. With less competition it could mean even higher air fares, and that could also drop traffic here. Kulpin agrees, "There is less competition. That's something we can't control at the airport and that could happen in the future, but hopefully they'll remain pretty competitive with each other."
Meanwhile, the airport thrives...ready to introduce its latest look in just a month.
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