Gulf Shores International Airport hopes to begin passenger jet service in spring
GULF SHORES, Ala. (WALA) - The Gulf Shores Airport Authority has just signed a contract for the construction and management of a passenger terminal at Gulf Shores International Airport. It will be a temporary facility with a larger, permanent one to follow. The goal is to have it completed sometime in March of 2023. That may seem soon, but airport officials said it’s because some airlines who are interested in our market are pushing for service to be ready by then.
Scott Fuller took over as Airport Director nine years ago with the specific purpose of growing the airport and establishing passenger service. After five years of terminal planning and negotiating with airlines, the FAA approved the air traffic control tower, the airport was re-branded, and that passenger service is now on the horizon.
“Right now, the only markets that are growing are leisure markets and the ideal market for an airline is one that doesn’t have air service and so, with eight million passengers...I’m sorry. With eight million visitors a year here, we’ve got a pretty big demand,” Fuller said.
Gulf Shores has the market, the control tower and now, with this contract with TBI/VINCI Airports to build and manage the terminal, all pieces are in place. Fuller said half a million visitors already fly into other regional airports to vacation in Baldwin County. Studies show Gulf Shores International Airport could pick up half of those and more.
“We know where our top ten cities are…people coming here, Nashville being the top one,” Fuller said. “Houston, Dallas, Chicago but before we go marketing to Chicago, we’ve got to have a flight there.”
The Gulf Shores Airport Authority has received a $500,000 federal DOT grant to go towards marketing passenger services. That will be added to the roughly $300,000 they already have to target specific fly-in markets.
The $3.7 million-dollar temporary terminal will be a two-gate, 12,000 square foot facility which could be repurposed as a customs or international terminal once the permanent terminal is built. When that will happen will depend on usage.
“We have a couple triggers in there and the first one is when we reach seventy-five-thousand enplanements. That’s people getting on the aircraft,” explained Fuller. “They’re required to start the design process for us to review and when we get to a hundred twenty-five thousand, they have to start construction.”
Fuller said at least two airline companies have signed letters of intent, but no official announcements have been made. Typical service would be 737-class passenger jets.
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