Ten minutes after they had disembarked, most passengers on a midmorning flight Tuesday from Portland had walked through Redmond Airport’s new enclosed gate corridor, snagged their luggage from the expanded baggage claim and were on their way home.
The travelers were among the first people to utilize many aspects of the larger airport, which were opened for public use Tuesday. While some were caught up with the aesthetics of the expanded facility, others said they appreciated more tangible results of the project — the enclosed corridor, for example.
Kim Fisher, who lives in Portland but frequently travels to Redmond for business, remembers walking through snow and ice to get from the plane to the baggage claim before there was a corridor. On Tuesday, Fisher walked through one of the eight new departure and arrival gates into the heated hallway. It was quicker, easier and warmer, she said.
“It was a long pathway before,” Fisher said. “So this is very nice.”
Other parts that opened Tuesday were more bathrooms and an expanded waiting area, including a second floor overlooking the airfield that travelers can access via a spiral staircase made of glass and wood.
Tuesday was Jerry Schappacher’s first trip through Redmond Airport. Although the Portland resident wasn’t impressed with it from above, he was surprised once inside. He said he liked the terminal’s architecture.
The only concern some passengers expressed about the building was over its size. At 140,000 square feet, it’s six times larger than the old terminal, which was last expanded in 1993.
Fisher wonders whether there will be enough people in the area to support an airport this size in 10 or 20 years.
John Landing, of Redmond, doesn’t think enough people fly in and out of Central Oregon to support the $40 million project.
“Not enough volume,” Landing said. “I don’t think it’s justified.”
But the renovations are attractive, he said.
After checking in her luggage at one of the 20 new ticket counters near the front of the building, Julie King, of Bend, said everything about the process was much more convenient than before — from ticketing to security.
As a mother, walking across the airport while trying to control a group of children is like wrangling cats, she said. Now, the ticketing and security process is much more streamlined.
“It feels like we’re getting up with the times,” King said.
Bill Grater said it looks like the expanded facility will be easier for people to navigate. He said airport employees oftentimes didn’t know which way to send passengers in the old building.
Like most other people, Grater, of Bend, can’t wait for the construction to be completed. Officials expect the expansion, which began about 1½ years ago, to be completed in January. Most of what’s left includes a new restaurant, completing the administrative offices and putting the finishing touches on the lobby.
Although some people were concerned the expanded terminal was unnecessarily large, King thinks the size is appropriate.
“It’s still a good little airport,” she said.