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Airport Lifting Off On $105M Project

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 19, 2024
In November, Wilmington International Airport opened a new 500-space parking lot (pictured above at left) to accommodate passenger growth in advance of a major parking overhaul and reconfiguration. (Photo c/o ILM)
Wilmington International Airport’s curved curb and circular parking configuration just won’t fly anymore.

Airport officials have embarked on the design phase of a $105 million project that will include realigning roads, straightening the terminal’s curb, reconfiguring its parking area and possibly adding a $30 million, 1,200-space parking garage to be considered by the airport authority board in the coming months.

The current curb and parking layout are insufficient to handle the drop-off and pick-up lanes the airport needs and its ongoing growth, said Jeff Bourk, ILM director.

“When you go to other airports, [the terminal curbside] is straight and long,” he said. “Ours is curved because it was built in 1989 for a terminal that saw 200,000 enplanements, and now we’re approaching 700,000 enplanements.”

In July, ILM officials hired Monteith Construction, a company with an office in Wilmington that performed the airport’s recent terminal expansion, to serve as the construction manager at risk for the $105 million project.

Bourk said construction on Phase 1 starts this month, and the entire project is expected to be complete by the fall of 2026. “It’s going to be a major improvement for ILM when we’re done,” he said. 

At the end of the day, Bourk said, the airport will have 2,700 parking spaces with room for more and designated lanes.

The project “accommodates our demand here at ILM for many years. But most importantly, we get the commercial curb and roadways we need for the long term, for the customer demand that we have for the next 20 years,” Bourk said. 

Other upcoming improvements include a $35 million terminal expansion and a $15 million project to redo one of ILM’s runways.

In addition to significant infrastructure changes, ILM’s anticipated growth comes with the need to examine other airport impacts.

Last year, the FAA awarded a nearly $1 million grant to ILM for a noise abatement study that is expected to start the first quarter of this year, Bourk said Jan. 10.

ILM served more than 1.3 million passengers in 2023, when six new nonstop destinations were added to ILM’s offerings. In 2022, ILM officials said nearly 1.1 million passengers used the airport.

Three of the new nonstop, seasonal services are offered by Avelo Airlines – to Tampa, West Palm Beach and Wilmington, Delaware. Delta Air Lines added Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, while American Airlines started nonstop service to Miami. In June, ILM’s newest carrier, Sun Country Airlines, touched down with its inaugural flight from Minneapolis.

Legacy carriers Delta, American and United Airlines also used larger aircraft last year, contributing to increased passengers.

Bourk and airport spokesperson Erin McNally explained how ILM attracts new airlines and destinations. Airlines, Bourk said, are “trying to make decisions on where to put those resources every day that are going to produce the biggest return for them as an organization, as a company. So our job is to make sure that they’re aware of the climate conditions here, the marketplace, anything that we can tell them that they may not have that will improve ILM’s position on their internal forecasts to increase our chances for them to put more resources here instead of less.”

For example, “Erin did a study to identify the second home markets in key cities that we think we could add our service to … that’s not information that their internal network planners are looking at for every market,” Bourk said.

ILM officials are mindful of their competition.

“We don’t compete for air service with the other North Carolina airports. We compete for air service with every domestic airport, even, in some cases, international airports,” Bourk said. “So we’re trying to make sure they see this market as a better market, or at least they have all the information to analyze this market and make the best decision about trying to grow service here.”
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