Walking into the Portland International Airport terminal, things will seem a bit different.
Some things are immediately noticeable — namely the disappearance of the Oregon Market and the hallway behind the ticket counters that used to lead to the airport’s security areas. Instead, there’s a wall with two giant signs pointing B and C gate passengers to the left and D and E gate passengers to the right.
The changes are part of the airport’s multiyear PDX Next remodel. The $2 billion project will expand the terminal, install a new 392,000-square-foot, curved roof and update areas across the airport that need to be brought into the 2020s.
“Our terminal building, even though folks travel through it as seamlessly as one building, was actually a series of seven buildings stitched together over the years beginning in the 1950s,” says Kama Simonds, aviation media relations manager at Portland International Airport.
With all of the changes, Simonds recommends travelers get to the airport at least two hours in advance.
Like in all older buildings, some things needed to be brought up to code.
“The project grew a little bit more and a little bit more in really appropriate ways, such that the end result will be a terminal that is prepared to handle the passengers, the traffic and the volume through 2035 and beyond,” Simonds says.
Before the construction began, a connector linked the two sides of the airport. That’s gone now. It has been cut in half and repurposed to create the bypasses. Construction is taking place where the concourse connector used to be.
The connector won’t return until the end of the project in 2024, so travelers will need to get used to not being able to get from one side of the airport to the other.
The newly opened Concourse B, mostly used by Alaska’s and Horizon’s local flights, now features floor-to-ceiling windows, art, seating and restaurants including Good Coffee and Screen Door, which will open next spring.
“It’s really beautiful,” says Simonds, adding the concourse used to be a dark, crowded place with low ceilings. “It was not a pleasant experience, especially as compared to the rest of the airport.”
“There’s a ton of research that looks at what makes people feel satisfied when they walk through an airport,” she says. “When you get into designing new spaces and new facilities, you take a lot of that into consideration.”
Many travelers feel stressed out when they fly. Some have a fear of flying, while others see it as a hassle. Concerns over the coronavirus have added to that.
“Music helps, artwork helps, lots of natural light helps. Places where you can just sit down when you’re feeling stressed out helps,” says Simonds. “At the end of the day, if you don’t like flying out of here, you’ll go somewhere else. And that’s not good for the airlines or the businesses here or the airport.”
Simonds says travelers should check the airport’s website, FlyPDX.com, to see if their favorite restaurants will be open and accessible to their gate.
“No one wants the hunger grumpies around the holidays.”