Charles Brown considers himself an old pro when it comes to flying.
As president and CEO of Legion Industries in Waynesboro, Ga., the Pennsylvania native has been flying into Augusta Regional Airport since 1989. He has watched the airport's metamorphosis since construction began in 2005, and now he's ready for it to end.
"This was a dragged out ordeal," Mr. Brown said as he rushed to board his plane back north. "It's just been going on for a long time."
The construction is not quite finished, but Mr. Brown's wish could be granted sooner than he thinks. Augusta Regional has entered its third and largest phase of construction - the main terminal.
"We're on target for our date," said Diane Johnston, director of marketing for the airport, of its late-2007 completion goal. "We are on schedule, and we're on budget, too."
Construction crews cleared away the last pieces of debris from the old terminal Tuesday and are now preparing the grounds for the last section of the airport's $30 million building.
The new terminal will house an updated ticketing area with curbside check-in and room for electronic ticket kiosks. The core area will house new offices for the Transportation Security Administration and airport security and a secondary snack bar area. An expanded baggage area rounds out the third phase of construction.
Though better things are on the horizon, Augusta Regional's frequent fliers are confronted with an airport that looks nothing like the one they knew before.
"That's been the biggest challenge," Ms. Johnson said, "because of course they've been used to driving in all these years, and they know exactly where they're supposed to go and don't pay attention to the signs."
Passengers still drive up to where the old terminal was, only to be greeted by piles of dirt and construction crews, she said. The terminal was leveled in late June.
With the old terminal gone, the pickup and drop-off area has been moved to the north side of the airport, along with the rental car company's ready-and-return parking lot. There are no longer distinctions between short- and long term parking. All cars now park in the north lot. The new concourse finished last month now acts as the passenger hold room and boarding area.
Inside, the ticketing area is now at the south end of the covered walkway area in the old U.S. Airways hold room. The baggage claim now occupies the old Delta hold room.
For Mr. Brown, who considers himself a "seasoned veteran" when it comes to flying, the changes have done little to affect his trip. But he said he could see how it could be difficult for a sporadic traveler.
Ms. Johnston said she realizes that the construction has made customer service more challenging. She said the airport is working to ease any problems by offering some extra amenities, including free baggage carts and Wi-Fi Internet access. The construction is necessary, however, to replace a terminal that was too old to serve its purpose, she said.
"It was never designed to be a terminal," she said. "We just kind of adapted it and added to it."
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Restaurants aside from those operated by AirHost cannot come in until the contracts are renegotiated, which Van Laningham said will take place toward the end of this year.
The airport authority this week began increasing its budget for the building that will replace RDU's cramped Terminal C. The new price is $555 million.
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