Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay Airport to expand departure lounge

The challenge of finding a place to sit at the Thunder Bay Airport during peak departure times will soon be a problem of the past.

Renovations will also speed up security process

An artist's rendition of what the renovated departure lounge will look like at the Thunder Bay International Airport. The lounge will have 50% more floor space than the current area. (Thunder Bay Airport)

The challenge of finding a place to sit at the Thunder Bay Airport during peak departure times will soon be a problem of the past.

The airport will undergo a major renovation, starting this October, to increase the amount of space available by nearly fifty percent.

"For anybody who's ever come through at six o'clock in the morning and had trouble finding a place to stand, never mind sit, we're going to start correcting that problem," said Ed Schmidtke, the airport's President and CEO.

To get more floor space, the airport moved Transport Canada offices from the second floor to the third floor of the main terminal building. That freed up 4,500 square feet of space. 3,300 sq. feet will be allocated to the departures area, with the remaining 1,200 sq. feet making the arrivals area more spacious.
The expansion to the departure lounge at the Thunder Bay Airport is shown on the left of this artists rendering. 4500 sq. feet of office space was re-located to expand the departures and arrivals area. (Thunder Bay Airport)

The renovations are the first major work done to the terminal since its construction in 1994.

"We're going to have to carve out pieces of the departure lounge during the ongoing operation of the airport for renovation," said Schmidtke. So, the queuing might be awkward, some of the sight lines might be awkward, but all to a very positive end when we're done."

The expanded area will be at the south end of the terminal building, creating more seating and a food service close to where the current Westjet counter is located in the departure lounge.

Shorter security lineups

The other major benefit to travellers departing from Thunder Bay will be shorter security lineups, which will also be part of the renovation.

A new screening process, called CATSA Plus, will be installed in February or March of 2018.

CATSA is the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Crown corporation tasked with screening air travellers.
The security area at the Thunder Bay International Airport will be expanded as part of the CATSA Plus upgrade. The area will also be turned by 45 degrees, to accommodate new screening equipment. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"The overall is to have a better flow of passengers at the checkpoint and a better experience, and more effective overall operations," said Mathieu Laroque, a spokesperson for CATSA.

CATSA Plus has been installed in other major airports like Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Thunder Bay is the first mid-tier where the system will be installed.

The expectation is that lineups at security, especially during peak times in the early morning, will be dramatically reduced.

"When passengers bags are going through the x-ray, instead of sending all the bags down the same chute, the same rolling table, the bags that are required to be searched will be pulled aside, to a different rolling table, where they'll be searched," said Laroque.

"Other passengers who have had their bags cleared will be able to continue without having to stop to see the search of the passenger in front of them, so that will improve the flow of passengers."

Other improvements as part of the renovation include adding some stone and woodwork to the airport, to give it a 'Canadian Shield' look.

The work is expected to start after Thanksgiving, and could take up to 50 weeks to complete.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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