Op/Ed: We're Building A Better Way To Fly

September 1, 2001

Richmond International Airport doesn't look the same these days. Our airport is undergoing the most comprehensive expansion in its history, an investment of more than $250 million over the next five years.

At this writing, the Capital Region Airport Commission is increasing parking spaces, improving terminal roadways, building ten new airline gates, and preparing to break ground on a modern air traffic control tower. Soon, we will double curbside pick-up/drop-off zones with separate arrivals and departures areas and update the main terminal. And we're doing this exclusively with airport dollars-meaning local sales or property taxes are not required to support construction.

What customers will see during the next five years are a lot of changes and we want everyone to know that we're working hard to provide the level of customer service that you expect. We have ten construction projects in progress, launched by the Airport Commission to address specific needs for a growing metropolitan airport.

The reasons are simple:

  • Facility Age: Many components of our facility are more than 60 years old. The lack of modern equipment, combined with constrained facilities, inhibits our ability to meet the needs and demands of airport customers.
  • Customer Volume: The number of customers using our airport has increased dramatically causing the Commission to aggressively add parking facilities to meet demand. In fact, we're nearly doubling our parking spaces by May 2002.
  • Enhancing Services: Expanded facilities provide options for our current airlines to increase their offerings and allow the airport to recruit new carriers, as exemplified by the recent Southwest Airlines announcement about upcoming Richmond service.
  • Economic Growth and Vitality: With extensive public and private projects being built across the Richmond region, this is an extraordinary and exciting time in our history. From the new canal walk, to the revival of Main Street Station, to the new convention center downtown-good things are happening all around. The airport is working hand-in-hand with partners including the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Richmond Partnership, the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Friends of Richmond International Airport to make sure our airport truly reflects our thriving and innovative community.

While this period of renovation will soon pass, we won't camouflage the inconveniences that our customers may experience today. We will, however, offer some advice to make your experience as easy as possible.

Know Your Parking Options
Parking is our biggest challenge. Although we can accommodate 5,000 vehicles--sufficient for current demand--not as many parking spaces are readily available near the terminal. By Thanksgiving, we plan to add more than 1,800 new spaces, including several hundred close in. Until new lots come online, I personally recommend that travelers use our express and shuttle lots, especially during typical peak Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday-evening periods. Complimentary airport shuttles run every 15 minutes and can be the easiest way to eliminate parking hassles.

Additionally, customers using convenient AutoExpress Pay Stations to pre-pay parking fees enjoy two immediate benefits. First, users gain a 30-minute grace period as they leave the airport. Secondly, the exit ticket allows customers to leave the airport via Express exits, bypassing the manned tollbooths for a quicker departure. Simply take your parking ticket into the terminal, and pre-pay parking just prior to returning to your vehicle. AutoExpress stations are located near the main entrance and in baggage claim.

Arrive Early for Departing Flights
Hopefully most travelers have seen our recent public awareness campaign urging everyone to add some extra time for parking. We're not kidding. If you haven't been to the airport recently, I have to caution you that it looks different. When you approach the terminal---the landscape is changing and you might be surprised by just how different everything appears. Take your time, observe posted speed limits, and follow the signs. Early arrival is the best way to ensure making a flight-it is also the best way to maneuver through all the construction.

Arrive Later to Pick Up Arrivals
When picking up a family member, friend or business associate we suggest that you account for aircraft movement time and the transfer of items to the baggage claim area. A good strategy would be to arrive at the flight's scheduled arrival time or shortly thereafter. With all the construction, short-term/hourly parking is limited. In addition, curbside parking is limited and if your vehicle is left alone (it is a safety hazard), you may be ticketed.

Handling Luggage and Special Assistance
If you're traveling with more luggage than you can carry or need special assistance-I recommend making the most of our valet service. While first-day costs are higher-all following days are comparable to our long-term parking. In addition, using taxi and transportation service providers can make your trip easier. But, be prepared that if you arrive during peak travel times curbside parking may not be an option.

The countdown to a new Richmond International Airport is well underway, and by 2006 we'll have one of the easiest and most user-friendly airports in the country. Your understanding and patience will be abundantly rewarded.

Respectfully submitted,
Jon E. Mathiasen, AAE
President & CEO
Richmond International Airport
1 Richard E. Byrd Terminal Drive
Richmond International Airport, VA 23250
Phone: (804) 226-3005
Fax: (804) 652-2607