Terminal Redevelopment Readies Providenciales Int'l for More Island Visitors

Jodi Richards
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Every year, more than one million tourists visit the Turks and Caicos Islands, a collection of 40 islands and cays (only eight of which are inhabited) located about 550 miles southeast of Miami. With most visitors flying into Providenciales International Airport (PLS), the facility has been working hard to keep pace with the rapidly growing needs of the popular vacation destination. By the end of the year, PLS will complete a two-phase, $50 million expansion and renovation project designed to do just that; but longer-term provisions are also in the works.

“After many years of planning and several challenges faced, we finally were able to obtain the necessary approvals to extend the existing terminal to accommodate existing capacity and short-term growth,” explains John T. Smith, chief executive officer of the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA). “Provisions remain for the construction of a separate, much larger terminal as a part of the master plan.”

Lavern Skippings, terminal and marketing manager at PLS, explains that TCIAA is a statutory body established in 2006, following the split of the Civil Aviation Department into the Civil Aviation Authority and Airports Authority. Previously, the government shared ownership of PLS with a private entity, but now fully owns the airport after buying out the private entity.

The expansion/renovation project nearing completion at PLS was necessitated by years of growth in international traffic and forecasts for continued traffic increases, notes Skippings. PLS currently has direct flights to 19 airports and serves approximately 500,000 passengers annually. More routes are expected in 2015, she adds.

In addition to running PLS and managing its current redevelopment, TCIAA oversees operations at airports on Grand Turk, North Caicos, South Caicos, Salt Cay and Pine Cay.

Landside & Airside

The $50 million expansion and renovation of PLS is self-financed by TCIAA with secured financing through a private lender, notes Skippings.

Phase I, completed in July 2011 at a cost of $40 million, addressed airside needs. In addition to extending the runway from about 7,600 feet to 9,200 feet, the airport added 240-meter safety areas at both ends, per ICAO standards. With the extension complete, PLS can now accommodate 777s.

facts & figures

Project: Terminal Redevelopment

Location: Providenciales (Turks & Caicos) Int’l Airport

Phase I: Airside Improvements

Primary Elements: Runway extension; apron expansion

Cost: $40 million

Consultant/Project Manager: Pryde Schropp McComb

Engineering Design/Project Mgt/Contract Admin & Site Supervision: WSP Group

Construction Manger: Dexter Construction

Subcontractors: Cove Construction; CBMS

Phase II: Landside Improvements

Primary Elements: Terminal expansion; roadway & parking upgrades; landscaping

Cost: $10 million

General Contractor: Dolmen Construction

Architect: RBS Architects

Engineer: Engineering Design Services

Shared-Use Passenger Processing/FIDS/GIDS/CUSS Technology: Air-Transport IT Services

Boarding Pass Printers, Passes & Bag Tags: VidTroniX

The aircraft parking apron was also expanded during Phase I and now totals 70,000 square meters. The new west apron is designed to support the maximum weight bearing of larger aircraft, including Boeing 747-400s and 777-300ERs. Construction of the concrete apron included an 8-inch stabilized base poured on a leveled and compacted sub-base surface; it was finished with 14 inches of poured concrete panels reinforced with steel.

Phase II of the project focuses on landside redevelopment and rehabilitation, with a budget of $10 million. It began in March 2013 and is slated for completion by the end of 2014. Exterior aspects include a new parking lot that will accommodate more than 300 vehicles (up from the previous capacity of 125) and a new road traffic circulation system.

The parking lot expansion and renovation were especially important to increase customer convenience, Skippings advises. Turks and Caicos locals drive both U.S. and Japanese vehicles; but the airport’s previous parking lot only had one entry, with the ticket machine on the left-hand side. Drivers of Japanese vehicles had to exit their cars and walk around the unit to collect a ticket, she explains. Since the renovation project, the parking facility features two parking machines, to accommodate drivers on the left or right. “The process is faster now, because you just drive up to the side of the machine that works for you,” Skippings explains.

Extensive improvements were also made to the terminal itself, which nearly doubled in size to 92,321 square feet. Enhancements include an expanded departure lounge with seating for 700 people; a bigger 8,230-square-foot immigration hall; new self-service check-in kiosks; an expanded landside canopy (now 9,519 square feet); and a new 3,090-square-foot security checkpoint. Additionally, the baggage hall was expanded to 9,000 square feet, and the airport added two new luggage carousels.

The upgraded terminal now features a 12,900-square-foot open-air check-in area that is twice the size of the previous enclosed space. The change will save energy, as the area no longer requires air conditioning, Skippings notes.

A curved roof was installed on both ends of the terminal to add dimension and unique landside appeal. The new design feature is made of glulam (glued laminated timber), an environmentally friendly structural product made of several layers of dimensioned timber bonded together with moisture-resistant structural adhesives.

Designed for Crowds

The recently expanded domestic area at PLS can accommodate an entire flight-load of passengers post-security — something that was not possible before renovations, Skippings relates. Additionally, there is now a separate area for domestic passengers to collect their luggage and exit the terminal. The airport also increased its volume of check-in counters and added self-serve kiosks to process more travelers.

Previously, airport visitors without boarding passes could access the domestic area to meet arriving passengers. But since the renovation and expansion, only ticketed passengers are allowed to enter the secured domestic area.

The departure area has been expanded and divided into three segments: the sky terrace lounge and departure areas on the upper and lower levels. The sky terrace is a canopy-covered, open-air area for passengers to watch flights land and depart.

Concessions options within the departures area have been expanded to better serve passengers, Skippings reports. On the duty-free retail side, passengers will find two jewelry stores, a liquor store and two souvenir shops — including one that features cartoon characters designed especially for Turks and Caicos. All the retailers are island locals, notes Skippings. Dining options were doubled and now include a grab-and-go option.

The upper-level departures area will soon feature a spa that offers fast, but relaxing services, she reports.

On the arrivals side, the Customs area has been fully renovated and expanded. Additionally, PLS added five processing desks to its Immigration hall, for a new total of 18.

Planning & Phasing

Building materials that might often be discarded were kept in service during Phase II. Wood from the overhangs in the old terminal, for instance, was recycled in the new terminal. “Considering $10 million really isn’t a lot of money, we had to try and find a way to be able to do all of this within the budget,” Skippings explains. “If we could reuse a door or repurpose wood, we did our best to do so.”

Transporting construction materials onto the island is a standard challenge, but bad weather increased the usual degree of difficulty in the early portion of the airport’s landside projects. Hurricane Cristobal, which hit the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2014, interrupted shipping operations and material delivery. While PLS was forced to close for two days, the airport’s drainage system spared it from the flooding many parts of the islands suffered, recalls Skippings.

“Bit by bit and piece by piece” was the theme for opening the new areas of the terminal, she adds. Each portion of construction was phased to minimize the impact on passengers and airlines, while also sticking to the project’s tight budget and timeline. In the arrivals area, temporary walls were constructed to allow crews to work, and later demolished when the space was ready for use.

Much of the construction was performed at night, and the airport constructed a passenger tunnel to facilitate work that had to be completed during the day. The air-conditioned tunnel allowed passengers to walk freely and safely while construction and underground work progressed on the other side, she explains.

“We had to find a balance between ‘I have these months to do it; I have a tight timeline’ and ‘I can’t work in the day with passengers there; I can’t work with flights on the ground.’ So this is what we needed to do,” says Skippings.

Phasing was also critical to the roadway expansion. Because the road to the terminal couldn’t be fully closed, the new surface was built in segments, using quickdry reinforced concrete.

Weekly meetings among contractors and executives have allowed the overall project to remain on task, Skippings relates.

As the airports authority’s chief executive, Smith often thanks PLS passengers and project stakeholders for their understanding during construction and renovations. “Without the support of the board of directors, executive team and staff, this task would have been even more challenging,” he reflects.

Technology Leap

Upgrading to common-use technology involved a number of different elements. Air-Transport IT Services (AirIT) deployed its Extended Airline System Environment (EASE™) shared-use passenger processing system in 22 ticket counter positions, five gate positions and three baggage service office locations, reports Chris Keller, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

PLS also added AirIT’s Flight Information and Advertising Display System (FIDS/ADS) products, and will employ the firm’s Intelligent Display System technology, which provides dynamic gate and ticket counter signage, including flight/gate/baggage information display systems (FIDS/GIDS/BIDS), with room for advertising content.

Additionally, PLS purchased 15 commonuse self-service (CUSS) kiosks to help shift some passengers from ticket counter lines; and Skippings reports that the airport may purchase 33 more in the future. CUSS kiosks provide more flexibility and allow faster passenger processing, explains Keller.

Switching to shared-use technology early in the project made it much easier to shift passengers and airlines as individual areas came online, reports Skippings.

Previously, American Airlines had only two desks at PLS. Now, American can process passengers at up to five check-in desks if other desks aren’t already occupied by other airlines. Delta Airlines went from two to potentially six available positions, Keller adds.

PLS also uses AirIT’s Local Departure Control product, which is designed to allow charter carriers to provide passengers with the same experience as a commercial operator — including seat assignment and boarding passes. “There’s a large difference in their seasonal/ non-seasonal air traffic,” Keller notes. “They can accommodate 30% to 50% more passengers or carriers with the shared-use system.”

The flexibility of shared-use technology will be especially beneficial to PLS as it continues to grow, adds Keller. While airport officials work to develop new air service, they can let airlines know that PLS has infrastructure in place for them and all they need to bring is aircraft and passengers, he relates.

Between the addition of new passenger processing systems, tunnels inside the terminal, and work crews at every turn, Skippings contends that building a new facility would have been a lot easier than renovating the airport’s existing one. “You don’t have the balancing act of keeping everything going while building something new,” she reasons.

If traffic at PLS continues to increase as forecasters predict, Skippings may get the chance to test that theory.


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