Waiting for their luggage outside the terminal at Aberdeen Regional Airport wasn't a problem for passengers Tuesday afternoon because the weather made it seem like they were somewhere else.
“If this had been January, it would have been a different story,” said Elizabeth Turner of Aberdeen, returning home from Orlando, Fla. “This being October and a gorgeous day, I prefer waiting outside.”
Construction that began Sept. 24 has changed the way people pick up their luggage at the airport. The baggage claim area is now outside, at the front of the terminal. Because work has started on the remodeling of the terminal, no carousel is being used. Airport manager Mike Wilson hopes the baggage claim will move back inside the building by mid-November.
A temporary wooden structure, which includes a roof, has been built on the sidewalk. An employee drives a baggage cart to the front of the terminal. After he arrives, he hands the luggage to passengers who are waiting on the sidewalk. Barricades on the terminal road keep passengers from walking on the road.
Wilson urges people to remain seated in the lobby until they see the baggage cart arrive in front of the terminal.
With out-of-state pheasant season beginning Saturday, Wilson expects business to pick up at the airport starting Thursday. That's also the day that the number of daily flights increases from two to three.
Wilson thought it would be better to affect the baggage claim area now than the holding area — the waiting room for those who have passed through security. This way, the area administered by the Transportation Security Administration will not be tampered with during hunting season.
The footings have already been laid for the remodeling work that involves expansion. When the remodeling is done, the terminal will be 16 feet longer and 44 feet wider.
If footings hadn't been done now, they would have had to wait until May or June, Wilson said. The remodeling work would have continued into next summer. This way, the remodeling work will be done before next year's pheasant season. During that work, the holding room would have been cramped, Wilson said.
So far, the remodeling work has affected about one-fourth of the terminal. The lobby area and the holding area have been untouched. The vending machines have been moved, and deplaning passengers now enter the lobby by a different route.
The cost of the remodeling will be about $680,000. Only 2 percent, or about $14,000, will be paid for locally. The rest of the tab will be picked up by federal and state government.
The security equipment will be moved beginning in early January.
Previously, the carousel area at the Aberdeen area was cramped. Now, Wilson said, passengers have room to stretch out in the lobby while waiting for their luggage.
After the work is done, the carousel area will have a frontage area two and a half times its previous size, Wilson said. The holding area, which now holds 39 people, will be able to handle 70 comfortably, Wilson said.
An announcement is being made to passengers flying into Aberdeen to tell them about the baggage claim changes.