DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines International Airport is seeing record breaking numbers. The number of travelers passing through is increasing by five-percent each year, it’s a number officials predicted would only by three-percent.
Growing pains are to be expected says airport executive director, Kevin Foley. “The facility wasn`t designed for the type of traffic we have today.”
The airport terminal was built in 1948, and has seen renovation and expansions about every ten years. On Thursday, the airport will break ground on a new FedEx shipping facility. However, a different expansion project is likely the biggest and most time consuming one yet.
“We`ve still got 10 years to go before we see a new terminal,” Foley says.
The nearly $500 million terminal project is not slated to be completed until 2028. Airport officials say until then they’ll make due with what they’ve got.
“We`re reaching capacity on checked luggage and the ability to screen that checked luggage,” Foley added. “The throughput on the machines that checks the luggage is roughly 350 bags per hour. We have more than 700 bags on a fairly regular basis that need to be checked within an hours time.”
Officials also say seating at the gates often gets overcrowded during peak travel times forcing hundreds of people to stand in the walkway of the concourse. Executives say the passenger experience is the airport’s top priority. The airport recently renovated restaurants throughout the terminal but they realize there is a need to improve in all areas in an effort not to lose passengers to other nearby airports.
“If it becomes too painful to fly that leisure traffic will drop off and on the business side people may say were going to drive instead of fly,” Foley says.
Airport officials say the projects could be completed sooner if the federal government were to increase the passenger facility charge. It’s a fee tacked on to each ticket that the airport collects.