Philly International receives award as major airport improvements near completion

by Ned Levi on November 26, 2008

And the winner of best airport food goes to … Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). At least that’s the verdict of The Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), which just awarded Best Food and Beverage Program to the Philadelphia Marketplace at PHL.

Philadelphia Marketplace, which partners with PHL in developing and managing the concessions program, consists of more than 160 food, beverage and retail shops, services and specialty retail units spread throughout the Airport’s seven terminals.

In 2003, the airport received the Richard A. Griesbach Award for “Best Overall Concessions Program.”

For the last two years, Philadelphia International has been renovating Terminals D and E. In mid-December the construction will be complete.

For the last few years a major complaint at PHL has been the need to go through security when transferring between Terminals A, B, and C, to either D or E, or between D and E. With the completed renovations, secured passengers will be able to walk between Terminals, A through E, without going through security again. To get to the stand alone Terminal F, secured passengers can take the Shuttle from either Terminal A or C to Terminal F, without going through security.

The other major complaint at Philadelphia International has been the lack of sufficient security lanes available for Terminals D and E. With the completion of the renovations to the terminals, they will have a combined security screening area with 14 passenger lanes, doubling the available lines.

Also as part of the renovations, the award-winning Philadelphia Marketplace at PHL will add seven new retail outlets and several new restaurants.

The renovations also include an increase of 23 ticket counter positions with larger queuing spaces. The Terminal E Concourse is expanded with a two-level addition at the end of the concourse. The addition will provide hold rooms, concessions, rest rooms and operations space to accommodate three new and four relocated gates. The Baggage Claim area for the two terminals will now be connected and will contain two additional baggage carousels.

PHL has good news about its Capacity Enhancement Program (CEP), designed to add an additional parallel runway, lengthen and enhance existing runways, renovate and improve the airport’s taxiway system and add a number of other improvements.

When the CEP is completed, PHL will have four parallel runways capable of simultaneous operations, dramatically increasing PHL’s capacity and reducing flight delays. At the end of October, about two years late, the FAA finally completed its public hearings on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will allow it to at last write the final EIS, and identify its preferred alternative from those proposed. That will shortly thereafter, lead to its final decision which will allow the project to get funding and start construction.

The CEP construction can’t happen soon enough.

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  • Frank

    And the winner of best airport food goes to … Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). At least that’s the verdict of The Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), which just awarded Best Food and Beverage Program to the Philadelphia Marketplace at PHL.
    =========================================================

    Ok, who is the ACI-NA and how much do they weight? The PHL foodcourt is full of fast food, comparable to any Mall out there. Pizza, burgers, chinese, chicken and cheese steaks.
    BEST Airport Food? Convenient, yes. BEST, not so much.

  • The man who notices things

    You need all of those improvements there since you miss more than an average number of connections due to the need to travel from Terminal A to Terminal F it seems most of the time, and the delays can be simply astronomical at PHL when the weather closes in.

  • Frank

    That Airport is HUGEEEEEEEEEEEE. They need to build a trail system above the concourses, like EWR, so connectors can travel efficiently between connecting flights. From concourse A to concourse F is approximately a 30 minute walk, easily. I’m glad I dont fly through there often.

    it needs a TRAIL SYSTEM!

  • Ned Levi

    Frank, The man who notices things, thanks for your comments about the difficulty of going from Terminal A to Terminal F. It certainly is a long way, and to top it off, they aren’t connected, as Terminal F is a separate building.

    Actually, I don’t know anyone who misses connections because they need to get from Terminal A, Terminals B/C, or Terminals D/E to Terminal F, if they’ve allowed themselves a reasonable connection time, unless they insist on that long walk Frank specifically mentioned.

    I guess you guys missed it in my article, but there is Shuttle Bus between Terminal A and Terminal F, and another between Terminal C and Terminal F, so you don’t have to walk it at all. What’s also good about the Shuttle Bus is that it’s completely inside the security zone of the Terminals, so when you get to your destination terminal, you don’t have to go through security again. You may go right to your gate.

    At Terminal A, you pick up the Shuttle at Gate A1. At Terminal C, you pick up the Shuttle at Gate C16. At Terminal F, you pickup the Shuttle at Gate F10. There are numerous signs in the Terminals about the Shuttle.

    The next time you’re at PHL, and are looking at that long walk, take the shuttle instead.

  • Frank

    Good follow up, Ned.

    While the bus helps, it’s route system is somewhat lacking. Come in on concourse B and I believe you dont have a bus that stops near the gate area. So, if you’re coming in on B, and need to go to A, C, F. you better start walking.

    am I missing something?

  • Ned Levi

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks very much.

    If you come into Terminal B, you have to go to Gate C16 to get to the shuttle, but that location is right at the front of Terminal C, no more than a 5 minute walk from Gates B1 and B2. Take a look at the PHL flashed based terminal map, so you can visualize what I’m saying. You can even take the moving walkway behind the Food Court and Shopping Mall which is between “B” and “C” to speed up the walk. Once the new D/E entrance opens, getting to C16 won’t be a very long trip either.

    A couple of weeks ago I was flying to Florida. I came into PHL at the normal US Airways B/C ticket counters, thinking my flight was out of one of those Terminals. It was out of Terminal A. It only took me about 7 minutes to get to “A” as I used the moving walkways in the concourse between “B” and “A.” Terminal A itself is a huge Terminal, and my gate was in “A” West, so my time for the stroll took about 15 minutes total time.

    Here’s the thing. I’m pretty conservative about connections and getting to my gate. In more than 50 years of flying on commercial flights, I’ve missed fewer than a handful of connections.

    Putting that aside, moving from Terminal to Terminal at PHL is certainly not ideal, and while I think the concessions are as good as at any large US domestic airport, and I’ve been to quite a few of them, the space and design of Terminals B, C, D, and E are for the most part out of the 60′s and 70′s. By now, many of us in Philadelphia had expected the major renovations needed at PHL would have already occurred, or be ready to happen soon, but years of delays in the airport’s Capacity Enhancement Program mostly due to the FAA and environmental concerns, in my opinion, have delayed all but the most essential Terminal renovations.

    Even today there are still two alternative configurations under consideration for the airport, under the Capacity Enhancement Program, in order to add a new runway, expanding existing runways, and improve the taxiway system, etc.

    Alternative A would upgrade and reconfigure the existing terminal complex in its existing location. This alternative would add an additional terminal east of the current Terminals. The total terminal complex would consist of eight concourses (Terminals) with about 150 gates to start. An automated people mover (APM) would be constructed to transport passengers between terminals and parking facilities. The APM would have both elevated and below-grade sections, with the system elevated along the face of the terminals and below-grade under the Runway 17-35 safety area. The existing SEPTA rail line would continue to provide access to the terminals from outside the Airport and would interface directly with the APM system.

    Alternative B would partially replace and relocate the existing terminal complex. Existing Terminal A (East and West) would remain in its current location. The remaining terminals would be replaced. The total terminal complex would consist of Terminal A and three remote concourses (Terminals) totaling about 155 gates to start. This alternative would construct an underground APM to transport passengers between terminals and a centralized headhouse. The headhouse would include drop-off and pick-up functions, rental car facilities, ticketing and baggage operations, and security. The existing SEPTA rail line would continue to provide access to the Airport, terminating at Terminal A and interfacing directly with the APM system.

    So, not knowing whether the current Terminals B through F will continue to exist, the City of Philadelphia, and the Airlines have been unwilling to make costly upgrades to these terminals. Personally, I think holding back major renovations in light of this Capacity Enhancement Program by the City and the Airlines was the correct decision.

    Please note, that whichever alternative is chosen there will be the addition of an automated people mover (APM) system to the entire airport to carry passengers between all terminals. So, it’s safe to say the officials who run PHL have been listening, and are planning to make the use of the airport by passengers a much easier and pleasant experience.

    Regards.

  • Frank

    Great writing, Ned.
    Your reply is as informative as the article you posted above. I’ll agree thought, PHL has come a long way over the years. The addition of Concourse A has a “feel” of an international airport. Wonderful addition to what you accurately describe as “dated” concourses, b, c, d and e. The fresh paint and new carpet did wonders.

  • The man who notices things

    I was at PHL Sat 06 Dec for a USAir Connection. As I got off the plane at gate B1 for the inevitable F concourse connection, I saw that the line for B/C concourse bus to F concourse snaked all the way to the massage place. There were at least 200 people in the line and it was growing. ALOT of people were grumbling that they were going to miss their connections as they had been standing there for 15 min and had not moved.

    Hearing this I simply turned around, took 2 moving walkways from the B concourse to the A concourse and took the shuttle bus to F concourse from Gate A1. I was the ONLY person on the shuttle bus at 1pm. Total elapsed time from when I walked away from the B/C concourse until I arrived at F concourse was 14 minutes. When I was grabbing a bite I over heard several people claim to have missed connections and given that it was Sat early afternoon had to wait 3 or 4 hours for the next flight, all because of the bus delays = and USAir’s answer to the problem was “The shuttles are operated someone else, not our fault.”

    Philly still ain’t that great.

    My flight had arrived at 12.40 and we waited 15 min for a gate agent to operate the jetway, but thats another story.

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