Bigger, faster, more efficient airport unveiled.

Author:McKinley, Karen

Thunder Bay International Airport unveils $9.5 million in improvements to customs hall and departure lounge

Travellers coming to the Thunder Bay International Airport have a lot more room and soon more amenities as soon as they get in the terminal.

The airport authority unveiled airport upgrades and expansions to the media on Oct. 24.

Those improvements include a brand new customs area for international flights, a larger departure lounge and security screening, aesthetic improvements to the entrances and exits, and upcoming improvements like transferable check-in software as terminal gates and more food and beverage options.

Airport authority president and CEO Ed Schmidke said these improvements total $9.5 million and are part of consulting with airport users and stakeholders.

"Our passenger volumes are increasing every year and the facility was not meeting needs any longer," he said in an interview. "We have limited space in our location, but we found ways to increase space and improve the experience for travellers."

The main suggestion was to improve customs clearance for incoming international flights. The solution was to build a larger facility on the west side of the terminal right behind Gate One. It includes an escalator that takes travellers down to a large room with security screening with up to three customs officers.

Overall, the customs hall has been expanded 331 per cent, from 57 square metres to 257 square metres.

"Before, international flights would land and go down what was essentially a fire escape for customs and have two officers for an average 180 people for a single flight," Schmidke said. "Now, they will be brought to a larger, brighter facility with faster service and more room."

The room was built with both security and aesthetics in mind. The west and south walls are equipped with large windows to let in more natural light. The walls are adorned with cedar and pine panelling, as well as granite accents. These touches pay homage to the Boreal Forest and natural stone cliffs surrounding the city.

"We live in the Pre-Cambrian region and we really need to celebrate and be proud of our natural heritage, put it on display for everyone to see," Schmidke said.

Those natural accents continue in the main entrances, with more wood panel and granite trim in the doorways.

Schmidke said the plan is to make the Gate One bridge the permanent home of all arriving international flights, including those coming from sun destinations...

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