When flying in or out of Salt Lake City lately, you’ll see rerouted roads and a massive new building rising around you. Under construction since 2014, the new Salt Lake City International Airport has finally reached its cruising altitude and is coming in for a landing on September 15, 2020. The grand opening will include a single central terminal, new greeting area, parking garage, and concourse.
If you’re flying into Salt Lake City during this reconstruction process, don’t worry. Since the new airport is being built adjacent to the old one, it will open seamlessly overnight without interrupting operations. The project’s second phase could disrupt passengers more, but is not set for completion until 2024.
Remodeling Versus Rebuilding
‘Why not just remodel the current facilities?’ is a common refrain, but the answer is simple. The current SLC airport was built in the 1960s when Salt Lake was a much smaller city. It’s since become a hub for Delta Airlines, while using facilities built for half as many passengers as it flies.
“Facilities were built for 10 million passengers, and last year we saw 26 million passengers,” says Nancy Volmer, director of communication and marketing for the SLC International Airport. “That’s why when you travel in and out of the airport you see that congestion curbside, in the gatehold areas, and even in the airfield.”
And while SLC’s current airport is aging, it’s long been lauded as the nation’s most on-time airport. Despite passenger worries, that won’t change. Instead the all-new airport will speed up everything from pickup and dropoff to security screening and deplaning.
Whether you’ve flown into Salt Lake many times or are planning your first corporate gathering in Utah, here’s what you can expect from this all-new SLC International Airport.
One Central Terminal
The airport’s three terminals become one central plaza at the new airport. Expect a bright, vibrant space with 45-foot-tall windows showcasing mountain views, plus a large security screening area designed to reduce wait times.
While the gate count isn’t going up dramatically, new gates will be more flexible and can be used for regional, national, and international airplanes. For regional fliers, this means no longer walking on the tarmac to board your flight.
New Greeting Area
Anyone who’s flown into Salt Lake City knows, the baggage claim area is often crowded with families holding signs and welcoming returning family members. Volmer says the new airport factors this part of Utah culture in with a separate Greeting Room. “It’s where people can go and wait for their passengers. It can accommodate 300-400 people and will have a fireplace, seating, and artwork. It will help with the congestion people now see with families waiting at the baggage claim for loved ones.”
Bonus for corporate visitors: a separate family area means a more professional arrival for your guests, and a smoother shuttle pickup experience thanks to reduced crowding.
New Pre- and Post-security Dining Options
Taste Utah and national restaurants throughout the new Salt Lake City International Airport. “We have local, regional, and national brands,” says Volmer, “We’ve found passengers like to have a mixture.” All restaurants will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with guaranteed ‘street pricing’ that prevents price gouging.
Utah favorites Beans & Brews, Bruges Belgian Bistro, Granatos, Market Street Grill, Pulp Lifestyle Kitchen, SLC Life Market/Creminelli Fine Meats, Squatters Pub, Pago, White Horse Spirits & Kitchen, Uinta Brewing, and Cafe Rio are already onboard. National eateries such as California Pizza Kitchen, Panera Bread, Shake Shack, and Starbucks will also open in the Central Terminal.
Pre-security, stop for eats and drinks at Blue Lemon, Starbucks, or Maverick.
On-site Car Rentals and Larger Parking Garage
In a pre-construction survey, airport users made one desire loud and clear: no off-site car rentals. Airport officials heard and kept car rentals onsite. The new rental garage is already open and will be seamlessly integrated with the new airport.
Parking at the airport? The new garage has 3,600 stalls—double the number currently available—with moving sidewalks to get you through quickly. Baggage claim is on the same level as the parking garage entrance so you can reach your vehicle faster than ever.
Added and Improved Seating
Finding a place to charge your device at the old Salt Lake City airport is a challenge, and nabbing an open seat can be worse. The new airport corrects these problems, adding more chairs—all with built-in power outlets.
Utah Showcased in Art and Design
For some patrons, the first and only taste of Utah they get is at the airport. “People say they’d like to see the beauty of Salt Lake City and Utah brought inside, and one thing that’s unique at this airport are its art installations,” says Volmer.
The art showpiece is a 362-foot wall in the central terminal called The Canyon, which mimics Utah’s slot canyons. Sculptures are planned too, and natural light pours in through windows that show off Utah’s landscape. Even the 24 bathrooms feature unique “whimsy wall” art murals.
Easy Pickup, Drop Off, and Rideshare Access
Some airports send you through dark parking garages to catch an Uber, but not the new SLC International Airport. Curbside pickup is planned for all rideshare and van services, along with walk-up access to UTA TRAX light rail from the central terminal.
New roads will also ease crowding. “An elevated roadway will help with curbside congestion,” says Volmer, “The top level will be where traditional airport check-in counters are, and if you go down a floor that’s where security will be located,” Baggage claim and passenger pickup will be on the lower level as well, separating it from the dropoff zone.
Massive Delta Sky Club
Lounge users will love Delta Sky Club’s new facility. “It will be one of the largest in the country when it opens,” says Volmer, “and has a nice outdoor patio with views of the surrounding mountains.” Expect more seating and improved food too.
Earthquake safety is vital along the Wasatch with the “Big One” expected here for decades. While the old airport could crumble in a 7.0 magnitude quake, the new SLC Airport will stand its ground. Volmer says it’s likely the safest place in Salt Lake City during an earthquake.
Designers went green at SLC International Airport, aiming for a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which only nine airports have received. It also plans to convert all ground service equipment to electric by 2024.
No Cost for Locals; Low Cost for Users
“When I started here four years ago, Salt Lake City was the only large airport with no debt,” says Volmer, and this great money management will continue with the new construction.
With an estimated price tag of $3.6 billion, Salt Lake residents were quick to wonder how an all-new airport would affect their taxes. News flash: it won’t. The current SLC International Airport is already one of the country’s most cost-effective airports for operations, and is entirely funded without taxpayer dollars. It’s instead utilizing a combination of cash on hand, bonds, and airline and passenger use fees.
Grand Opening Hoopla
The rebuild is no minor job; over 1,770 workers are employed there, laboring in fields from construction to electrical installation. But Volmer assures they’ll be ready for the September 15 grand opening, with everyone working to finish on time.
Old airport gates will be used in conjunction with new ones when the North Concourse opens in October. SLC International Airport’s second phase, which includes demolition of the old airport, is slated for completion in 2024. Regional fliers should allow more time as they will need to take a shuttle to their gates during this reconstruction.
Now that you know what to expect, download the SLC Airport’s new smartphone app to help navigate the new airport when it opens. We’ll see you in Salt Lake City!
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