Tucson International Airport expanding

Published: Jun. 6, 2016 at 8:53 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 6, 2016 at 10:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The world of flying is changing so Tucson International Airport is changing right along with the times.

Next week, it kicks off a $28 million expansion project which is designed with the flyer in mind.

The most obvious change will be the TSA security checkpoints which are now stuck in a cramped hallway leading to the terminal. 

When finished in a year and a half, there will be new checkpoints at both ends of the terminal and each will be able to accommodate more passengers more quickly.

"We're going from three to four lanes," said Mike Smejkal, of the Tucson Airport Authority. "A lot of airports are going back and reconfiguring security checkpoints."

After 9/11, when checkpoints became a requirement for airports, most were shoehorned into tight, cramped areas. 

"Post 9/11, everybody was just trying to get the security equipment in place to meet the requirements," said Smejkal.

But now Tucson, like many other airports, has the space to expand security without expanding the airport.

"A lot of airlines are going to kiosks," said Sandra Kukla. "No more big ticket counters."

Technology has changed the way people buy tickets. On line, on smart phones or at the kiosks when they arrive at the airport. 

"It changes the requirements," Kukla said. 

"20 years ago we had 40 airlines flying into TIA," said Bill Assenmacher, of the Tucson Airport Authority. "Now we have a handful."

That means there's a lot of space which can be utilized to enhance the customer experience. 

As well as putting in bigger checkpoints, the project will also add retail, food and beverage outlets, a business center and a children's play area. 

The new space will open up to a series of large windows which will give the customer a view of the airport and mountains while they check through security and/or wait for their flight. 

"This is a kind of turning point for Tucson where we're trying to grow the number of flights and destinations," said Assenmacher . "We're trying to make the airport more pleasant than it has been."

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