The airport has arrived: At Richmond International, a three-year face lift costing $46 million is nearly finished

July 16, 2007

Jul. 15--Imagine trying to redecorate your home with millions of visitors walking through the living room.

That's been the challenge at Richmond International Airport since March 2004, when work began on a $46.8 million expansion of the terminal and the creation of a bi-level road.

"We've built a house, and the next thing to do is make it home," airport spokesman Troy Bell said during a recent tour of the near-complete facility.

A dedication ceremony will be held on July 30 at 10 a.m.

But even so, more work remains to be done on Airport Drive during the next two years.

One recent change in the terminal has been the relocation of ticket counters to its south side -- on the right if you're entering on the second level.

Delta, Northwest, Continental, AirTran, JetBlue and Skybus are lined up on the south side, with US Airways, United and American staying on the north end of the glassy, 155,000-square-foot building.

"If it's your first visit in a year," Bell said of the carriers' counters, "that's the first thing that stands out."

Also look for new signs outside showing where to get dropped off for each airline.

Depending on when you last visited Richmond International -- which topped 3 million passengers last year -- here are some other signs of the times:

--Delta has added a pod of self-service kiosks, a new design for self-ticketing that the airline has used at other airports, according to Bell.

Delta also put in a rebooking desk, which lets passengers who want to change reservations make direct calls to airline customer service representatives.

--Continental also has new self-serve kiosks.

--Baggage carousels: Six in all are now in operation, three on the north end and, most recently, three opened on the south side.

Airport officials are talking with airline managers to try to improve the quality of baggage delivery.

"Some do a really good job all the time, some do a really good job part of the time," Bell said, without naming the carriers. "We're trying to get everybody up to that all-the-time standard."

--Improved signs in the baggage area: The airport has installed new computer technology that requires airline baggage handlers to enter flight data before the conveyor systems will run.

The information should appear above the carousels, letting waiting passengers know when their luggage should be on the carousel.

--Rental cars and travel information: The first level houses car counters, a help desk for airport parking, Groome Transportation and an information desk of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

--More food and retail: If you're waiting for a flight -- or an arriving passenger -- you may notice more varied food and gift selections in the second floor atrium, or down the concourses.

These include Hudson News, with a total of four stores, and familiar eateries such as Applebee's and Caribou Coffee.

Many of the food and retail outlets opened in the past 18 months.

--Valet parking: By late August, a new valet parking lot will open, with easy access at the south end of the terminal building.

--Planned cell phone lots: This fall, work will start on two small parking lots along Airport Drive for motorists awaiting passengers who call on their cell phones when their flights arrive.

--More road work: Workers have been cutting down trees along Airport Drive to clear the way for a $13.3 million road-building project.

With a projected completion date of late 2008, the new design will separate traffic traveling north and south, and have two traffic overpasses. Contact Chip Jones at (804) 649-6726 or

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