By Tina Marie Macias
For Daphne Lenox, flying into Lafayette Regional Airport has advantages over larger venues like New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
“My family is here in Lafayette, and it’s easier and there’s not much of a price difference (compared to bigger airports),” said Lenox, a former Lafayette resident who lives in Virginia.
That’s the main reason that people choose Lafayette Regional, said Greg Roberts, Lafayette Regional’s director of aviation. In 2011, 59.8 percent of Lafayette travelers chose their local airport, 24.7 percent chose New Orleans, 15.5 percent picked Baton Rouge and fewer than 1 percent picked Alexandria and Lake Charles.
“Our competitive advantage is convenience. Short walking distances from your car to your airplane, from your airplane to your car, TSA agents as friendly as can be,” Roberts said.
To help Lafayette Regional keep up with the growing demands, the governing board is considering a variety of upgrades, from minor tweaks to a new terminal.
Airplanes taxiing travelers around the runway and carrying passengers to Atlanta, Dallas and Atlanta are just part of the activity at the busy Lafayette Regional Airport these days.
The airport has spent more
than $30 million on improvements over the past five years, using its $4.50 passenger facility fee and federal, state and local funding. This year, $23 million is slated to be used, mostly from federal grants, and nearly $74 million is projected to be spent in the next 10 years.
A dual jet boarding bridge for United Airlines is in its beginning phase and probably will be completed by the end of the year. Safety improvements to the north end of the airport’s 8,000-foot runway could be completed by mid-2013.
“If, God forbid, an aircraft overruns the runway, it won’t go into the river or Highway 90,” Roberts said. “And we may see a larger aircraft coming in because of the larger runway.”
Inside the current airport terminal, the face of the airport, $3.5 million in security upgrades are in the works. Some cosmetic improvements were completed this year and last — upgrades to rotating doors, an escalator, an elevator and new carpeting — because it will be years before the terminal becomes a reality.