January 31, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 4

Plan afoot for new airport terminal

Air Excursions is planning to build a passenger terminal and office at the Haines Airport this spring, effectively moving operations out of downtown by summer.

Kent Craford, co-owner and general manager of parent company Alaska Seaplanes, said the building will include a restroom, space for freight handling and a passenger waiting area.

“It will be a big improvement over how we’re operating with a little office downtown and shuttling out to the airport. There’ll be more cargo capacity and a generous waiting area. It will be better for customers and staff,” Craford said.

The terminal’s dimensions aren’t certain yet as the building is still in the design stage, he said. The airline currently is seeking a lease from the State of Alaska for space at the airport east of the existing terminal, which is owned by Wings of Alaska.

Sharon Thorsteinson, an aviation leasing specialist with the state Department of Transportation, said the company’s lease application currently shows plans for a building 40 feet long and between 12 and 20 feet wide, with the wider dimension including room for a wheelchair ramp and patio.

The length of leases granted by the state correlates to the level of investment in a planned facility. A current, estimated cost of $50,000 would qualify for an 11-year lease term, Thorsteinson said.

A public comment period on the lease application ends Feb. 14. If no comments are received, the state’s next step is to execute a lease, followed by issuance of an airport building permit, Thorsteinson said.

The state will work to ensure a new terminal building fits in with a planned 2014 redesign of the facility, which includes a storage building for snow-removal equipment and relocating passenger parking to the north side of the airport access road.

Part of the plan is to continue down the east side of the apron with lease lots, according to DOT.

Craford said there are advantages to a downtown office, including convenience for dropping off freight. He said complimentary van service to and from the airport, for freight and passengers, will help make the new location convenient for customers.

Business leaders this week said the plans are good news, reflecting an investment by the airline into the community.

“It’s new infrastructure. If it improves the industry by having the service out there, that’s great,” said Haines Chamber of Commerce president Barbara Mulford.

The project will bring jobs to the community, including building the new terminal, she said.

Chamber board member Brenda Jones, who has been active in downtown revitalization efforts, said that although the move means vacating a Main Street storefront, the new arrangement also means the company will be able to staff its office full-time.

Under the previous arrangement, the office has been temporarily closed while workers make runs to the airport, Jones noted. “That can be a challenge, too.”

Wings of Alaska airline acquired the existing terminal building at the airport from the City of Haines in 1999. The airline agreed to terms including maintaining restrooms and a public area there for use by the public during daylight hours.