By Steve Schulwitz
ALPENA – Plans are under way to have the passenger holding area at the Alpena County Regional Airport remodeled to be made larger and offer more seating for passengers who have cleared screening. The current area only seats 10 people and as the number of enplanements climbs and flights are more filled, the lack of space in the room is slowing security checks and boarding.
During Wednesday’s Alpena County Finance Committee meeting Airport Manager Billi McRoberts told the three commissioners that new airline service provider SkyWest is concerned about the situation because it affects the efficiency in which they run operations. McRoberts said the plan to expand the holding room is in its early stages, but estimates it will cost between $25,000-$30,000 to have it done. She said the county would only have to pay 2.5 percent of the cost however because it could be used via state block grant funding.
“We have been in discussions with SkyWest Airlines and they have been advised it is an issue. It has been an issue in the past and now that we have a 50-seat jet SkyWest is very concerned because it slows them down,” McRobert said.
McRoberts said the plan is being considered by more than just the county. The Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration will play a role in how the new area will be laid out. McRoberts said she was hopeful that work could begin in the latter part of 2012, but she said that goal is likely not realistic any longer.
“We were looking at a 50 seat holding area, but that would cause a problem in the lobby terminal. I was hoping to get started on the holding room by the end of the year , but it looks like it is going to have to be in 2013,” McRoberts said.