Wednesday morning, the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport opened an upgraded terminal to passengers.
Doors opened at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. The first flight took off about 6 a.m.
This is the first phase of upgrades at the airport. The newly opened area includes a covered parking deck with access to the terminal, a centralized checkpoint to travel between concourses, new eating options, and a children's play area.
The centralized checkpoint, a key feature of the renovation, is meant to streamline the check-in process and save travelers time.
The old terminal required passengers to check baggage at the counter and then take their luggage to a separate location. The inline baggage system costs $14 million alone. "Passengers will be able to actually walk up to the counter… check-in… check their bags.. and leave their bags rather than having to roll them over to TSA," Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokesperson for the Birmingham Airport Authority reports.
Passengers say they liked what they saw. "Oh yes, they got it right," Laura Clevenger of McCalla Al. said. "This is a good thing for the Birmingham airport." Clevenger was one of the first passengers to fly out of the newly-renovated structure Wednesday morning.
The renovations also include additional food options past security, many of them local establishments. Jim N Nick's Bar-B-Que, Good People Brewing Company and Starbucks are only a few of the venues passengers can look forward to.
The upgraded facility also boasts a "children's play area designed by the McWane Science and private rooms for nursing mothers," a Birmingham Airport Authority statement reports.
The upgrades are part of a $201.6 million modernization project. The final phase of the project includes work on Concourse C. Construction is expected to begin sometime in the spring and should be complete by 2014, according to Bast.
Additionally, "Phase I improvements also included attention to sustainability, with an emphasis on conservation of energy and natural resources, as well as pollution reduction," the Birmingham Airport Authority reports. The Authority has applied to officially qualify the new structure as environmentally friendly with LEED certification.
Passengers are encourages to arrive at least 90 minutes before their flight takes off to check in and go through the screening process.
You can check arrival and departure schedules for flights in and out of Birmingham on the airport's website.
The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is the largest airport in Alabama. It served over 2.8 million passengers in 2012. It opened as the "Birmingham Airport" in 1931. In 2008, the board of directors for the Birmingham Airport Authority approved renaming the facility for civil rights activist Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth.
Demolition on the older terminal is expected to begin in the next few weeks.
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