Boost gives way to new scanners
By Kate Mabry
Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 9, 2012 01:02
Austin Bennett / The Daily Reveille
Passengers unload luggage Feb. 4 at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport.Click here to purchase Reveille photos.
The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport has seen more passengers this year than in the previous three, and additional cash is flying into the airport as well.
Jim Caldwell, air service development and marketing manager at the Baton Rouge airport, said the airport has seen a three-year high.
In 2011, the airport saw a 4-percent increase in flyers since 2010, which saw a 10 percent increase from 2009, according to Caldwell.
The Baton Rouge airport does not receive money from the city. All funds are self-generated.
Caldwell said the increase in passengers has brought in additional revenue from parking, spending at the airport’s restaurants and gift shops and the passenger facilities charge, which is a standard fee per passenger.
Caldwell said the additional cash will help the airport expand and grow and has led to two major developments: the addition of a full-body scanner and the expansion and renovation of the airport’s facility.
First, he said the airport, which incorporated the full-body scanner into its normal security measures, recently received the newest version of the Advanced Imagery Technology machines with privacy-enhancing software.
The AIT machine, which scans for both metallic and non-metallic items, depicts a generic body image, which Caldwell described as “a cartoon-like drawing.”
Caldwell said the scanners have been well received by passengers, and many with misconceptions about body scanners have been
reassured once viewing their images.
“The scanners make the process faster, and there are no
concerns about the image since it’s generic,” he said.
Caldwell said the second major change in security affects those waiting for arriving passengers.
Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, people waiting for passengers were allowed to enter in the airport and wait at the gate, but afterward, only ticketed passengers could enter through security in order to ensure flyers’ safety.
But this change in policy has led to overcrowding in the areas outside of security.
With the additional revenue from an increased number of flyers, Caldwell said the airport plans to start construction in March to expand and renovate the airport.
Caldwell said several bonds were sold to generate funds for the expansion project, and the money generated by additional business will be used to pay off those bonds in the future.
The major focus of the project will be the expansion of the airport’s rotunda to almost twice its current size.
Caldwell said the airport lacks a facility for those waiting on passengers, and the current waiting area is narrow and creates a bottleneck.
The expansion will provide a spacious waiting area with additional restrooms and seating, as well as restaurants and vending options.
The airport, which is nearly 10 years old, still contains some of its original flooring, and Caldwell said the renovation will also provide for new flooring.
“These are renovations and upgrades that are overdue,” he said.
Ryan Laurent, civil engineering junior and Florida native, said he has flown from both the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Laurent said he last visited the Baton Rouge airport more than a year ago.
“The Baton Rouge airport is smaller than the one in New Orleans, and it only takes about five minutes to get through security,” he said.
Laurent said he enjoys the less stressful environment at the Baton Rouge airport, but wishes it had more flights.
“There’s not too many places to fly to,” he said. “I had to fly to Atlanta and connect to Tampa. The New Orleans airport has a direct flight to Tampa, and it’s much easier.”
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