Monday, August 20, 2012

Philadelphia International (KPHL), Pennsylvania: "A little love" for Terminal F at airport - More upgrades are planned

Businessman Thomas Bennett did not relish taking a shuttle bus from Terminal C, where he flew in from Pittsburgh, to connect to a flight in Terminal F, at the other end of Philadelphia International Airport. 

Especially in the rain.

"I would put a cover where the bus drop is here," Bennett said the other day, as he waited in busy Terminal F to board a commuter jet to Manchester, N.H.

Bennett, who clocks 100 to 150 flights a year, gives the Philadelphia airport a general thumbs-up.

But, he said, "if you are talking specifically about F Terminal, it seems a little distant, and it needs a little love."

Love is just what the commuter Terminal F is getting: a $127 million expansion and makeover aimed at making travel easier and more fun.

Soon, those inclement weather days will be over for Bennett and the 4.9 million other travelers who fly each year on small planes into or out of the 38-gate commuter terminal.

Terminal F is getting a new, larger shuttle bus stop with a covered vestibule. Passengers won't have to step into rain or snow when connecting by bus to other terminals.

And passengers may rejoice that, inside, the terminal is getting twice as many restaurants and concessions, more passenger seating, and an expanded security checkpoint to accommodate the crowds.

The improvements are unrelated to a long-term $5.2 billion airport proposal that calls for a fifth runway along the Delaware River. US Airways is acting as construction manager of the Terminal F redesign, which will be completed in early 2016 and financed by fees charged to airlines.

One-sixth of the Philadelphia airport's 31 million annual passengers start or end trips in Terminal F, which was designed in the late 1990s for smaller 30- and 50-seat regional jets.

When the $98 million terminal opened in 2001, US Airways Group Inc. flew 175 daily Express flights out of it. Today, US Airways operates 275 daily Express flights and uses all 38 gates.

When 50-seat jets were in fashion, fuel was $1 a gallon. "Now at $4 a gallon that changes the economics," said Rhett Workman, US Airways managing director of corporate real estate. Delta Air Lines recently announced plans to shed 218 50-seat jets.

"Regional jets are not going away," said aviation consultant Michael Boyd in Evergreen, Colo. "We are just going to have bigger airplanes."

As US Airways expanded in Philadelphia, its second-largest hub and primary international hub, more "feeder" traffic has come into Terminal F.