Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey needs more counter space and parking to accommodate a growing number of passengers, a consultant told the Airport Authority board last Tuesday.
As it’s set up, the airport can currently service 135 passengers per hour, according to Evan Barrett, aviation planning manager for consulting firm Mead & Hunt. At one point in January, though, consultants observed over 200 passengers per hour, he said.
“That is really a function of the limited number of counters for ticket agents,” Barrett said. “It’s an issue that needs to be addressed very soon, as enplanements and activity grow.”
As part of its terminal planning project, the airport, in partnership with Mead & Hunt, is considering renovating its vehicle parking areas, expanding the departure lounge and increasing baggage claim and gate capacity. The planning project is expected to be largely funded through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program entitlement funds, with the airport itself pitching in about $18,340.
Barrett said Mead & Hunt’s current recommendation is to add two more SkyWest counter positions to manage peak demand, build in counter space for a possible fourth airline and combine baggage rooms.
“Currently the passenger queueing area spills into the circulation quarter, which just creates more congestion,” he said. “The baggage screening area is also woefully undersized. If outbound baggage rooms were combined, that would improve access.”
To increase passenger flow, Barrett said the airport could add a second security checkpoint lane. For those arriving, he said, the departure lounge could use larger restrooms, a service animal relief area and a business center.
“A lot of [arriving] passengers are expecting those nonrevenue-producing services these days,” he said.
Barrett noted that Friedman’s parking lot has continually exceeded 85% capacity, and in 2019 “reached full capacity on 17 occasions.” One solution would be adding a cell phone lot, he said, which would allow people to wait for passengers without having to circle around the terminal or pay for parking.
Eccles land acquisition slowed
The airport board on Tuesday also heard a presentation from Mead & Hunt Aviation Services Leader Brad Rolf about its plan to acquire over 380 acres from Eccles Flying Hat Ranch. If acquired in summer or fall 2022, as proposed, the Eccles land would largely remain as open agricultural space, serving as a protection zone south of the runway. The airport is still exploring the possibility of developing 17 acres of Eccles land next to its fixed-base operator area for extra hangar space or aircraft parking, but that land is unlikely to be developed any time soon, Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said.
Rolf said Mead & Hunt’s environmental assessment related to the Eccles land acquisition has been delayed one to two months due to the ranch’s designation as a historic district “with standalone historic resources, structures and canals” by the State Historic Preservation Office.
“The [Preservation Office] and the FAA are discussing how resources would be protected. It’s been a back-and-forth, but the FAA is getting close to an agreement,” Rolf said.
Other airport news
• Takeoffs and landings were down only about 1.3% in January and February compared to last year, Pomeroy said. The number of commercial passengers boarding in February was down 22% year-over-year. “February has actually been very good for us,” Pomeroy said. “Though we were still down [in enplanements] this year versus last year, I'd like to point out that last year was a record February for us. That 22% gap is actually much narrower than it seems, considering how busy last year was from an operational standpoint.”
• Friedman’s new instrument approach procedure for E175 jets has “saved” a total of 53 flights that otherwise would have been canceled or diverted since the system went online in December, Pomeroy said.
• Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg will continue his role as board chair and Hailey Mayor Martha Burke will serve as vice chair, replacing Don Keirn. Ron Fairfax will continue his role as board treasurer and County Commissioner Angenie McCleary will continue her role as board secretary. All officer positions last two years.