Passenger traffic drops, construction more than two years behind schedule
By JONATHAN G. FOX, Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer
February 25, 2008
While funding issues pushed the final phase of Bradley International Airport’s $200 million construction project more than two years behind schedule, the airport has also been taking a hit from the airline industry, which is moving its longer flights from regional airports to larger hubs.
Airport officials blame a significant drop in passenger traffic over the past two years to the fact that regional airports have fallen out of favor with some airlines, not its construction delay.
Nearly 900,000 fewer passengers traveled through Bradley over the past two years, dropping its record of 7.4 million in 2005 to 6.5 million in 2007.
The airport’s turbulence is continuing. Bradley’s latest casualty is Frontier Airlines, which announced last week that it would eliminate its daily nonstop flight to Denver in September. The news comes less than a year from when Frontier announced its debut at Bradley with much fanfare.
The reason, according to Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas, is the price of fuel.
“It’s really driven primarily by fuel concerns” he said. “All long-haul flights are being scrutinized now because of the expense of fuel.”
Bradley’s pain is being shared by other northeast airports. T.F. Green Airport in Providence is also experiencing a similar reduction in passengers due to airlines repositioning their aircraft to larger airports, said Bradley spokesman John Wallace.
Not A Factor
Airport officials maintain that its two-year delay to complete its final phase of renovations at Bradley has not been a factor in its passenger reduction. They point out that in 2005, in the midst of its eight-year construction process, passenger counts actually peaked.
The final phase of its 2000 capital construction project includes both interior and exterior renovations of its 20-year-old terminal that is located adjacent to its new terminal. The purpose of the renovation is to unify the appearance of the older facility with its new terminal while also modernizing it.
Plans include raising the roof that connects the older terminal with the new one, as well as constructing a sit-down restaurant and bar. While roof work has begun and is expected to be complete by year’s end, construction of a sit-down restaurant has not begun. Nor has a restaurateur been selected to operate the dining facility.
However, plans for additional retail stores are underway for the renovated terminal and will include a New York Times bookstore, a CNBC periodicals shop and two small “grab and go” eateries.
Another major component of the final project aimed at unifying the old and new terminals is the removal of a massive wall that separates the old and new terminals. That too has not been completed.
“The original design was ultimately revised when expected federal monies were not congressionally funded,” said Interim Airport Administrator Stephen Korta. This setback forced construction to begin two years later than planned — on April 30, 2005 — about the same time airport officials had originally announced the project would be complete.
“A project like this takes a great deal of time,” said Wallace. “It’s like working inside somebody’s house while they’re still living there.”