SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A year ago, executive director Bill Wyatt stood on an elevated walkway at the Salt Lake City International Airport and watched the terminal for about 10 minutes.
He didn’t see a single passenger.
Friday, Wyatt said the number of travelers at SLC International are now meeting, and some days exceeding, the same time as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re feeling the heat because the business at the airport has come back much more quickly than anybody had thought,” Wyatt told the Airport Advisory Board this week. “It’s going to be a very big summer here, lots of travel. We’re going full throttle.”
Wyatt said the airport anticipated around 20,000 passengers to come through the front door of the airport in the last days of this week with several thousand additional passengers connecting through the airport, which serves as a hub for Delta Airlines.
“It just feels completely full,” he said.
Wyatt added that the airport could set records over the summer for passenger volumes, which he credits to an increase in leisure travel.
Wyatt told the airport board business travel has yet to rebound, saying ‘the only suits I see in the airport now are missionaries.’
Travelers in Salt Lake City are still getting used to a brand-new airport that opened its first phase in September 2020.
Construction crews are now working on phase two of the new airport, which will add gates to concourse A and allow passengers moving to concourse B to use a tunnel that will significantly reduce the walking distance to their gates.
Currently, passengers coming and going from concourse B have to use a tunnel that connects halfway down concourse A. It’s a walk that take between 12-18 minutes, according to the airport’s estimates. When the new tunnel opens in approximately three years, it will significantly reduce that time.
Wyatt said it’s a complaint he hears often from travelers.
“The space between A & B is really just a function of bigger planes,” Wyatt told 2News.
Wyatt emphasized that most gates at the new airport can accommodate much larger planes than the gates in the old airport. That’s good for attracting new routes and airlines, but it also means more distance to walk for passengers.
“It is much bigger, that’s not going to change, get here early, give yourself some time,” Wyatt said.
The airport has moving walkways which lessen the time it takes to walk through the concourses and the existing underground tunnel.
The airport currently has 370 daily departures and 95 non-stop destinations, according to spokesperson Nancy Volmer.
German airline Eurowings announced this week it plans to add non-stop service starting next year between Salt Lake City and Frankfort.
Wyatt said additional airlines are looking to begin service to Salt Lake City, but which airlines and what new routes the airport could see are part of confidential discussion.
“We are going to see more carriers in this market and we’re going to see overtime much more international service in this reason, is because we have a much bigger airport,” Wyatt said. “By next Summer (2022), we will have a full load in terms of international travel We will have everything we had before, and I bet we’ll have more. I can see Asia, I can see Europe, and I can see Central and South America and, to be honest, we have room now.”