The Little Rock National Airport has put the finishing touches on a $1.7 million expansion project, part of its 2020 vision plan. The latest work will streamline the security and scanning checkpoint, a source of frustration and guaranteed time delays for airline travelers.
The 3,000 sq. ft. renovation will add a new security lane and make room for two new full-body imaging machines to screen passengers. The imaging machines are expected to reduce scanning times from 2-4 minutes to just seconds.
“One of the things that people complain about the most — I don’t care if it’s Little Rock National or you’re in Newark or Los Angeles — is what the checkpoint experience is like,” Airport Commission Chairman Virgil Miller tells Talk Business.
“Now, we’re going to be able to handle many more passengers,” he added. “We think it’s going to be a very pleasant experience for our flying public.”
Miller also discussed the hardships that economic conditions have placed on the Little Rock National Airport during the past few years. Slower-than-expected passenger traffic has led to tight budgeting at the central Arkansas travel hub.
“One of the things that we don’t have any control over is the economy. But by all accounts, this economy is going to come back,” Miller said. “Once this economy comes back and the public starts to travel more, we want to be ready for that, we want to have the capacity… You can’t build something based on what capacity is today. You’ve got to build something based on what you think capacity is going to be 5, 10, 20 years from now.”
Airport officials are planning additional improvements, including a new in-line baggage system, an upgraded ticketing lobby, and energy-saving enhancements.
In 2012, airport management projects operating revenue to rise slightly from $27.8 million to $27.9 million. The airport is expected to remain in the black with a budgeted net profit of $8.3 million.
Projections for 2011 put net profits at an estimated $9.5 million, roughly 39% higher than initial projections for 2011.