Airport expansion brings travelers, economic growth

Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019
by Cathy O'Connor

Passengers and airport visitors recently have begun seeing temporary, protective walls erected around the ticketing and baggage claim levels of Will Rogers World Airport.

The temporary construction zone signals the airport’s growth in air travelers and increased frequency as a destination. When complete, the airport will have a new east concourse, four new airline gates, three of which will be leased to Delta, a consolidated security checkpoint with more capacity and processing efficiency, and meeter and greeter lounges.

Another recent sign of the airport’s growth is the addition of another nonstop flight.

Earlier this year, American Airlines launched nonstop service from Will Rogers to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, joining Southwest Airlines in serving this major airport. In both cases, Oklahoma City’s sustained growth in aviation, bioscience and aerospace, plus the significant presence of state and federal campuses, was cited as the reasons for the increased demand for service to the D.C. area. The new flight to our national’s capital is the 28th nonstop destination from Will Rogers World Airport.

These recent changes also signal economic growth for our city. A recent Harvard study examined air travel’s role in the economic performance of cities and countries. One of the positive contributors to economic development is airports that were more likely to have direct flights. Changing planes affected inter-city investment patterns and direct flights encouraged more business connections. In other words, it is easier and more productive to schedule meetings when people don’t have to change planes or allocate hours to sitting in airports waiting on a layover.

We already know this to be true of convention and meeting planning. One of the top criteria for choosing a meeting location is that the venue is readily accessible with direct flights.

The Will Rogers World Airport expansion project is expected to take two years at a cost $89.8 million. Timberlake Construction Co. is managing the project. An official groundbreaking is set March 29.

The airport expansion and increase in direct flights is yet another mark of our city’s transformation. It brings more travelers to Oklahoma City, giving us the opportunity to show off our city and enhance our competitive edge for businesses that operate on a national and global scale.

Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

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