Mainers traveling over the February school break will have a chance to check out the recently expanded Portland International Jetport. Having recently completed the $75 million project, the jetport opened its new 145,000-square-foot terminal in early October. With features like an elevated sky bridge between parking garage and terminal, boarding pass kiosks and an expanded security checkpoint, the new addition is aimed at improving efficiency and cementing the jetport's reputation as a convenient alternative to larger metropolitan airports.
Southwest Airlines' recent announcement that it would continue to operate flights to and from PWM as part of its acquisition of Orlando-based AirTran Airways was welcome news for the burgeoning jetport. As the nation's largest domestic carrier, Southwest operates over 3,330 flights a day with an emphasis on low-price fares. The link to Southwest Airlines could mean lower prices, expanded routes and an all-around busier jetport, according to airport Director Paul Bradbury.
Mainebiz sat down with him to discuss the expansion, Southwest's continuing service and the logistics behind security-screened lobster. An edited transcript follows.
Mainebiz: What exterior differences will passengers notice with the jetport expansion?
Bradbury: It's really spread the inbound and outbound traffic patterns. Whereas they used to be immediately adjacent, now we have a departure concourse and an arriving concourse. We have the direct overhead connector to the parking garage, so you know when you are flying out for February vacation that if it's snowing, you can go straight from the garage on level three to the security screening checkpoint. Plus all parking at the airport is now within 800 feet of the terminal — the idea here is that the local airport can be very convenient.
And the interior? What improvements were made there?
Downstairs at ticketing we have a [new] system for outbound baggage. It's all done seamlessly behind the scenes, which is huge for us. It's much more efficient. Our security screening checkpoint now has more capacity [to handle] rushes. We also rebid all our concessions. Since October 1, we've had Linda Bean's Maine Lobster Café with lobster and the ability to buy lobster to go, which is huge for tourism in the summer. When you buy the lobsters, you're already past the [security] checkpoint, so we've already screened everything going into the restaurant. We also have a Starbuck's, a new bagel and sandwich kiosk and a Burger King — we've never had fast food in the airport, so that's a great new addition.
How important is it to the jetport that Southwest will continue service?
Southwest is the largest domestic carrier. It's important we have very good service, and if you don't have the largest domestic carrier, there's a real hole. For a metropolitan area of 500,000, we have incredible service.
What's been done to give the jetport a sense of place?
Opening March 1 is a new Down East Marketplace — as in Downeast magazine — and Cool As A Moose. The Down East Marketplace carries Downeast publications, other magazines, books and news, but will also have some really good Maine products like Stonewall Kitchens. Same with Cool As A Moose, it's a Maine brand. What people want coming in and out of airport isn't a generic T-shirt. n