The new Salt Lake City Airport (SLC) terminal opened for business Tuesday morning, along with a 25-gate concourse occupied by SLC’s hub airline, Delta.
Delta’s first flight from the long-anticipated facility took off four minutes early, at 5:56 a.m. local time, en route to what was an early arrival in Atlanta.
The terminal and SLC’s Concourse A-west are part of what will eventually be a $4.1 billion rebuild of the entire airport. The project also includes a major rework of the airfield.
Also opening on Tuesday was a 3,600-space parking garage. The 20-gate Concourse B-west, which will house gate space used by Alaska, American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United, will open Oct. 27.
Phase 2 of the airport project, which will include the opening of 22 more gates as well as demolition of existing 1960s-era facilities, is scheduled for completion in December 2024.
“This new airport has been a bright spot in what has been a dramatic and tumultuous year,” SLC director Bill Wyatt said during a grand opening celebration held at the airport on Aug. 27.
The terminal was built to evoke landscape themes from Utah. For example, an art installation called “The Canyon” spans 400 feet in length and 22 feet in height and is framed at the end by broad windows facing the mountains.
As part of the rebuild, Delta has opened its largest SkyClub at the airport. The 28,000-square-foot facility offers two bars and two buffets. It also has a covered patio facing the nearby Wasatch Mountain range.
The new terminal also offers a variety of customer service enhancements. Among them are a consolidated, 16-lane passenger security screening area as well as a luggage conveyor system designed to accommodate skis and other oversize bags. The terminal and the new Concourse A-west will also offer a combined 21 restaurants and 24 retail outlets.
The project has been undertaken with deep involvement from Delta, which utilizes Salt Lake City as its Mountain West hub, transiting flyers between the eastern U.S. and the West Coast, as well from dispersed locations to smaller Mountain West communities, including popular vacation destinations in states such a Wyoming and Montana.
SLC is the fourth-largest station in the Delta network, according to Eric Phillips, the carrier’s senior vice president of airport customer service. Delta has invested $3.6 billion in the SLC rebuild, Phillips added.
The number of gates Delta operates out of in Salt Lake City will remain the same as it was at the old terminal. But the carrier will enjoy new operational flexibility because all of the gates will be able to handle planes ranging in size from regional jets to the widebodies Delta operates on international Salt Lake City routes. Previously, some gates could only handle regional jets.
Airfield improvements will also increase efficiency, giving Delta more mobility on the jetway, Phillips said.
Delta’s Salt Lake City operations have grown faster than operations have grown in the network at large in recent years, Phillips said. He expects that trend to continue once the Covid-19 pandemic eases. Even now, on the October schedule, Delta’s domestic capacity is scheduled to be down just 15% year over year, compared with a 40% to 45% reduction in its entire domestic system.
“I think that the trends that we’ve seen in recent years where it was growing faster than the GDP and faster than our system, I think we’re positioned for that to continue,” Phillips said.