PLATTSBURGH - Passengers flying into Plattsburgh International Airport are now benefiting from one of the latest improvements at the facility - a new baggage carousel.
Rodney L. Brown, deputy county administrator and interim airport manager, said the seemingly small change will make a large difference for those picking up their luggage in the airport terminal. The previous carousel wasn't able to accommodate the amount of baggage from larger flights, leading many to have to pick up their luggage outside, even during inclement weather.
"The belt that was installed with the building was undersized for the level of service that we're providing out of this airport," explained Brown. "The [county] legislature made the decision sometime late summer to move forward with installing a new one."
The overall process took nearly three months, with the majority of that time preparing a design of the new carousel and putting the project out to bid. In the end, Murnane Building Contractors Inc. of Plattsburgh provided the lowest bid for the work, and was awarded the contract for approximately $180,000.
Murnane was the same business that won the contract to construct the airport's terminal in April 2007.
"Once they started work on it, they completed it in about two weeks," Brown said, referring to the baggage carousel.
The timing of the new baggage carousel's completion couldn't be better, said Brown, as the number of people using the airport will begin to increase. Direct Air and Tours, formerly Myrtle Beach Direct Air and Tours, will begin new one-stop service to Punta Gorda, Fla., this Saturday, Dec. 6. Allegiant Air is expected to begin service to Tampa Bay, Fla., beginning Saturday, Dec. 20. The number of people taking advantage of such flights is something Brown said he expects to continue through the spring as locals look to head to warmer destinations.
Other improvements to be seen at the airport include an expansion of the existing parking lot. Three hundred additional parking spaces are in the process of being created, said Brown, which will further make room for an anticipated increase in airline passengers. The spaces are currently behind fencing and once the fencing is moved within the next two weeks, they will be open for use.
"We haven't really hit the peak number of flights, so we certainly are going to need the additional parking spaces," said Brown.
On the general aviation side, Brown added, additional hangar space is being constructed for private jets and other general aviation aircraft. That construction is expected to be complete next summer 2009.
Michele Powers, vice president of marketing for the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, said the improvements for the airport signify the potential she and others expected to see at the airport once it was in operation.
"We knew this was going to happen; I think we were just surprised how quickly it happened," said Powers. "We knew the market was there and the fact that we're already having to make upgrades to the airport is really exciting. It's a good problem to have."
In a press conference held last month by the chamber of commerce, it was announced the airport expects to see 60,000 enplanements by the end of this year. That figure is a significant increase from the last full year of operation at the former Clinton County Airport in 2007, which saw 2,500 enplanements.
"The passengers seemed thrilled about the level of service coming out of this airport," said Brown.