Airline expands lobby at S.L. hub to speed service

July 11, 2007

Delta Air Lines on Tuesday unveiled a renovated check-in lobby at Salt Lake City International Airport that it says will speed passengers and their luggage to the gates, while preparing the carrier to handle more domestic and international flights.

By expanding the lobby to 12,000 square feet from 10,000 square feet, the airline was able to add four check-in positions, bringing the number to 30, Delta executives said during a news conference in the airport's Terminal 2.

Above the check-in positions are new audiovisual electronic screens that direct passengers to available ticket agents.

Nine new baggage-drop areas were added for customers checking in online or at self-service kiosks in the more spacious lobby.

The kiosks now issue boarding passes to customers flying internationally, as well as to U.S. destinations. The machines have been arranged so they funnel passengers toward the baggage-drop areas.

The pickup-sized luggage screeners operated by the Transportation Security Administration have been moved out of the lobby and behind a wall where passengers can't see them.

Wider conveyor belts behind the ticket counter are designed to move luggage to the TSA screeners more rapidly. Two conveyor ramps will zip oversized items such as skis onto a separate conveyor belt.

"Our customers today demand speed through the airports. They want a better experience. They want a faster experience, and that's exactly what we've done here in Salt Lake City," said Rich Cordell, Delta's senior vice president of airport customer service.

The project was launched 18 months ago, shortly after Delta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2005. Delta won't reveal what it spent to modernize the lobby, but airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said, "It's in the millions of dollars."

The English-language and Spanish-language kiosks also will issue baggage tags. Passengers will take their bags and the tags to the drop points, where they will be weighed. If the bags are overweight, agents can collect excess-baggage fees with machines that swipe credit cards.

"It was painless and quick. It was a piece of cake," said Tom O'Brien, an Albuquerque, N.M., businessman who checked in his bags and himself in under five minutes Tuesday afternoon.

Salt Lake is Delta's fastest-growing hub. The airline has added nonstop flights to more than 30 new markets in the past year and is considering whether to launch its first nonstop route from Salt Lake to Europe next year.

"We plan to have continued growth here, and you'll see that this lobby was done on purpose. It will allow us to grow Salt Lake City both domestically and internationally," Cordell said.

After the news conference, Cordell said he was not aware of any specific expansion plans Delta has for its westernmost hub.

"But the important thing is we now have a lobby and an airport infrastructure that can support anything we choose to do."

Delta exited bankruptcy on April 30. Its shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $20.65 on Tuesday, down 68 cents.

Delta's Salt Lake City flights

* 84 daily departures

* 375 daily departures counting those by contract carriers SkyWest Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines, to 120 destinations

* 11 international destinations

Delta's new look in SLC

* 30 check-in locations in Terminal 2, up from 26

* 21 new electronic information displays above check-in locations

* 24 self-service check-in kiosks, same as before

* 9 new baggage-drop positions added for customers using kiosks

* 12,000 square feet in Delta's remodeled lobby, up from 10,000 square feet

* 30-plus is the number of new markets Delta has added nonstop flights to in the past year