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Travelers frustrated over new SLC Airport design, layout

Posted at 10:12 PM, Jan 04, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — People may hate change, but the new SLC International Airport was one many welcomed with open arms. After months of construction and anticipation, it opened with "ooos" and "ahhhs" at the sleek design.

It was going to be nicer and more efficient, passengers were told. The linear concourse that replaced the old airport's pier system would streamline incoming and outgoing flights.

WATCH: One last look inside the old Salt Lake City Airport before it is demolished

But over the holidays, Tweets at @slcairport suggested passengers were not having this new system, as they wondered aloud on social media how on Earth it could be better than the old way.

"@slcairport new airport is probably the worst experience I have ever had," wrote Twitter user Christian Rovsek. "And the airport is new! Wow."

"Poor design with long walks to and from gates, not adequate signage or shuttle," wrote user SAIC. "Witnessed an individual fall down a non-working escalator last night."

Twitter user Zach French simply wrote: "The new @slcairport is terrible."

Monday night at the airport was quiet, and hard to imagine why travelers would feel that way.

But over the weekend, people described a completely different scene.

"It was just an absolute zoo," said Bevan Haycock, who lives in Provo. He said he drove to the airport to pick people up, and encountered a huge line of cars waiting to get to the passenger pickup area. He said the people who flew in couldn't find the right way to get to the passenger pickup spot, and ended up in the wrong area.

Tony Baklava explained that his dad owns a transportation company and described hearing hundreds of complaints.

He said there is often "miscommunication with the family kind of getting frustrated. They don't know exactly where to go because the signs aren't clear."

He also talked about how it's taking a ton of extra time for customers to get off the flight and navigate to baggage claim.

"They're taking 30 minutes just to get picked up," he said.

Baklava, who lives in New York City, explained he has flown through the airport several times and experienced problems in person as well.

Perhaps one of the biggest gripes centers around the extra time it takes for people to get to and from their gate.

The linear A and B Concourses make the walk feel more like a marathon.

"I gotta start jogging to train for the Salt Lake City Airport," Baklava joked.

"A lot of people are frustrated," Haycock said.

He said the walk is worse getting to the B Concourse.

"Every time, I'm like, 'Please get me an A gate so I don't have to allot an extra 20 minutes to walk over there,'" Haycock said.

The complaints aren't falling on deaf ears.

"We've been getting feedback from our passengers that the distance is longer than they expect," said Nancy Volmer, Salt Lake City International Airport spokesperson.

She explained that the new airport is meant to handle more than three times the number of passengers as the old one. The old one, built decades ago, wasn't meant for the same number of flights.

READ: 21 new gates, three restaurants, several shops now open in SLC airport's Concourse B

"So, it is a much larger facility, and it will take extra time to navigate," Volmer said.

However, she indicated that they're already making tweaks based on feedback to help make the airport easier for passengers to get around in.

"We're learning things," she said. "We're learning where signage needs to go, we're learning what passengers are experiencing curbside."

And, she added, a future underground tunnel in Phase 2 of construction will cut down on the time it takes to walk (or run) to the B Concourse.

Volmer expressed that the new linear design truly is more efficient. She described how with the old design, only one plane could enter or exit from a gate in a given concourse at one time.

"With a linear configuration, aircraft can move in and out at the same time," she said. This means planes can pull right up to the gate without waiting, and leave the gate for takeoff.

But gone are the days of showing up late for your plane, and still making it on board with flying colors.

As Salt Lake City grows, so did the size of the new airport.

And clearly, it'll take some (or a lot of) getting used to.

"You might have to walk an extra 30 minutes," Haycock warned.

"Show up a little earlier than you would think," Baklava advised.

Volmer suggested passengers arrive at least two hours before their flight. They can also download the SLC Airport app, which she said includes a map and walking distance times to help travelers navigate to their gates and know how much time it'll take to get there.

READ: Iconic world map design salvaged from floor of old SLC airport