St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) has received US FAA approval for its master plan, a key step toward building a new consolidated passenger terminal capable of handling 21 million passengers annually.
STL, which currently operates two terminals, wants to build a terminal on the site of Terminal 1, while reusing the building now used as Terminal 2 for undetermined purposes. The airport aims to break ground on the new terminal by 2026, but the project has yet to pass the FAA’s environmental review process.
The Midwest airport also needs to line up “financial support commitments from airlines,” according to STL director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge.
STL’s Terminal 1 opened in 1956, while Terminal 2 opened in 1998 and is used primarily by Southwest Airlines. Terminal 2 also handles international flights, although Lufthansa is currently the only airline outside of North America that operates to Lambert.
Southwest had a leading passenger market share of 57.7% in STL in 2022, followed by American Airlines (17.1%), Delta Air Lines (10.1%), United Airlines (6.2%) and Frontier Airlines (4.1%).
The airport handled 13.7 million passengers in 2022, 13.9% less than the 15.9 million passengers handled in 2019, STL’s busiest year. Hamm-Niebruegge says STL needs to increase annual passenger capacity by 32% from 2019 levels to 21 million by 2040.
“The most outstanding projects in the [master plan approved by the FAA] are consolidating all commercial airline passenger activities into a single new terminal, along with roadway improvements and increased [automobile] parking lot,” it says in a statement.
The director adds: “Public surveys carried out during the airport master plan [process] revealed that there is a lot of public interest in a bigger garage, as well as more concessions and a simpler track, all of which are achieved with the plan.”
In a presentation on the master plan, STL says the airport’s two existing terminals suffer from “lack of functionality”, “insufficient concessions” and “high maintenance costs”.
STL currently has 45 gates. The master plan calls for the new consolidated terminal to have 62 gates, an increase of 17 gates.
“All future boarding gates must be suitable for modern and larger aircraft,” the airport says.
STL officials will now focus on getting environmental approval for the construction project from the FAA by mid-2024. “Environmental planning is expected to start later this year,” says Hamm-Niebruegge.
Following FAA environmental approval, the airport will begin the architectural design phase of the project. If all goes to plan, construction would begin around 18 months later, in 2026.
This article was originally published on Aviationweek.com.