The authority that manages St. John's International Airport is planning an ambitious transformation that will see it double in size so it can handle more flights and international business. 

Passengers will carry the burden of the $243-million expansion, with the airport improvement fee jumping 50 per cent to $30 per flight. 

Artist's rendition of expansion planned for St. John's International Airport

St. John's International Airport is poised to double in size over the coming decade. An artist's rendition released Tuesday shows what the complex will look like. (CBC)

A plan to spend $243 million over the next decade was revealed Tuesday, with details on new departure gates, more space in the departure lounge and upstairs concessions to serve those waiting for flights. 

"We're bursting at the seams here," Neil Pittman, the chair of the St. John's International Airport Authority, told CBC News. 

The authority announced its last expansion plan in 2011, but says it needs to be more ambitious to meet a surging demand.

About 1.5 million passengers pass through the airport each year — double what it had been in the late 1990s when the federal government turned ownership over to an independent board. 

Double national average

Pittman said the airport will soon need to accommodate two million passengers per year, and is dealing with a 45 per cent increase in the number of available airline seats on flights that go through St. John's. 

"These growth rates are twice that of the national average, and each year we continue to reach new levels and break our own records," he said. 

The overhaul will start this summer, with the first phase focusing on the terminal's east side. 

A bigger arrivals area is also planned, as well as a larger customs area for international flights. 

Pittman defended the increase in the airport improvement fee, even though it will become one of the highest in the country. 

"It's on par with the three major airports in Alberta," Pittman said in an interview, adding that those airports are facing similar challenges due to economic growth. 

Work on the east side of the terminal will take about three years. 

Further expansion work will start in 2017 and run until 2020.

The new plan includes moving concessions, including a full-service restaurant, to the second level. Pittman said in the wake of post-9/11 security measures, many passengers spend more time in departure lounges and need to have greater amenities.