Change coming to passenger, baggage screenings at airport

February 29, 2012
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A $20.3 million construction project will change the way passengers and checked baggage are screened at the Colorado Springs Airport by year’s end.

The project, which began last fall, will add space that will permanently accommodate new screening equipment used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration as well as relocate some airport offices and consolidate the airport’s operations and communications centers.

The most visible change will move screening of checked baggage out of the lobby back to the airport’s baggage area in two phases beginning this fall and finishing before year’s end, said John McGinley, the airport’s assistant director for operations and maintenance. Airlines with ticket counters on the west side of the passenger terminal’s lobby, which include United now and American after a move, will start using the new system by mid-September, and Allegiant Air, Delta and Frontier will begin using the new system by mid-December, he said.

The airport began using automated explosive detection equipment installed in the passenger terminal’s lobby nearly two years ago while the airport expanded the baggage area to accommodate the machines and incorporate them into the airport’s baggage-handling system. The new system means that local passengers will no longer need to bring their luggage to the screening machine after checking it with their airline; all of the screening will be done after the bags are taken by conveyor belts to the baggage area.

The airport also is expanding the terminal’s security checkpoint to make room for new full-body scanners the TSA will begin using on selected passengers by mid-September, McGinley said. The scanners already are in use at Denver International Airport and many other airports nationwide, as well as the El Paso County Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex. Software used by the scanners has been modified so it no longer shows a detailed image of the passenger’s body, which had triggered complaints and privacy concerns by some passengers.

Airport officials are also consolidating the operations and communications centers, now located on different floors of the terminal, in an expansion on the terminal’s third floor to increase efficiency by allowing more coordination between staff of the two centers. The consolidation also will free up other office space for the airport’s accounting staff, which is now located in space in the terminal that could be leased to an airline and generate revenue for the airport.

The construction projects come as the airport is expecting increased passenger numbers when Frontier begins nonstop flights in May to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle;  that is expected to reverse a four-year decline in the number of passengers boarding local flights. Despite last year’s decline in passengers, the airport still reported its income last year more than quadrupled from a year earlier to $1.79 million as revenue increased 2.7 percent and expenses fell 4.1 percent during the same period.

“Financially, it was a very good year,” said Gisela Shanahan, the airport’s assistant director for finance and administration. “We worked hard to diversify our revenue base while paying close attention to our cost structure so we could generate income that we share with our airline tenants. That effectively reduces their rates here that have allowed us to keep air service that might have otherwise been lost”

Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman
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