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GTR Airport expansion under way


Neal Wagner



Visitors to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport during the next several months will notice several changes and construction areas throughout the terminal, as crews July 13 began work on the airport''s new terminal wing.  


Once complete, the expansion will increase the terminal''s seating capacity from 58 to 150, and will include several visual enhancements across the airport facility. 


"They started Monday morning, and they basically already have all of the dirt work done," GTRA Executive Director Mike Hainsey said during a Friday airport board of directors meeting. "They are already way ahead of where we thought they would be. We are really pleased with the speed of their work." 


In addition to the new airport wing, crews also will be redoing the entrance to the terminal, Hainsey added. 


"When you walk into the airport now, there''s just a stairway in front of you," Hainsey said. "We are going to totally redo that section and put a wall there with a welcome sign. 


"We will rebuild the stairway behind that wall," Hainsey added, noting crews will install tile floors in place of the carpet currently lining the airport entrance. "The wall will have a sign that says, ''Welcome to GTRA, Columbus, Starkville and West Point." 


The 6,000-square-foot terminal addition likely will be completed in seven to nine months, Hainsey explained.  


"Our goal next meeting is to chose a color scheme for the terminal," Hainsey said. "(JBHM architect) Bill Whittle will hopefully be here with an interior designer out of Jackson." 




Slightly up 


In other business, the board announced June passenger loads were up 1 percent over June 2008, bringing the airport''s year-to-date passenger loads up 1 percent over the same time last year. 


"Tuesday and Saturday afternoon flights are usually our lowest loads," Hainsey said. "If you take those two flights out, our load factors last month were 74 percent. 


"We''ve been in a lot of discussion with Delta. They are concerned about the load factors on the regional jets, which are the largest they fly out of here," Hainsey added. "Last month, we were down double digits for our advance booking percentages." 


However, most customers who fly out of GTRA typically book relatively shortly before their flights, Hainsey explained. 


"I''ve told them not to use our advance booking numbers. Most passengers tend to book a week or two before their flights," Hainsey said. "They are just looking at ways of tweaking the flight timing to get the greatest load factors. 


"They are real happy with our new Memphis service," Hainsey added. "Those flights are 85 to 90 percent full in the mornings. I am optimistic that we are still holding our own right now."




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