SLC International Airport sees pre-pandemic travel levels return to ‘full swing’
A year ago, Executive Director Bill Wyatt stood on an elevated walkway at Salt Lake City International Airport and gazed at the terminal for about 10 minutes.
He did not see any passengers.
On Friday, Wyatt said the number of travelers to SLC International is now meeting, and exceeding a few days, the same time as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are feeling the heat because the airport business has returned much faster than anyone expected,” Wyatt told the airport advisory committee this week. “It’s going to be a really big summer here, a lot of traveling. We are going at full speed. “
Wyatt said the airport expected about 20,000 passengers to pass through the airport front door in the final days of this week with several thousand more passengers connecting through the airport, which serves as a hub for Delta Airlines.
“You just feel completely full,” he says.
Wyatt added that the airport could set records over the summer for passenger volume, which he attributed to an increase in leisure travel.
Wyatt told the airport board that business travel has yet to rebound, saying “the only costumes I see at the airport now are missionaries.”
Salt Lake City travelers 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 doors to hall A and allow passengers traveling to hall B to use a tunnel that will significantly reduce the walking distance to their gates.
Currently, passengers to and from Hall B must use a tunnel that connects halfway to Hall A. It’s a walk that takes between 12 and 18 minutes, according to airport estimates. When the new tunnel opens in about three years, that will significantly reduce that time.
Wyatt said it was a complaint he often hears from travelers.
“The space between A and B is really just a function of bigger planes,” Wyatt told 2News.
Wyatt pointed out that most of the gates at the new airport can accommodate much larger planes than the gates at the old airport. It’s good for attracting new routes and airlines, but it also means more distance for passengers to travel.
“It’s a lot bigger, it’s not going to change, get there early, give yourself time,” Wyatt said.
The airport has moving walkways which reduce the time required to pass through the halls 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 plans to add non-stop service starting next year between Salt Lake City and Frankfurt.
Wyatt said other airlines are considering starting to serve Salt Lake City, but what airlines and what new routes the airport might see are part of confidential discussions.
“We’re going to see more carriers in this market and we’re going to see a lot more international service overtime for that reason, 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’ll 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.