Airport gets new baggage system this year |

Airport gets new baggage system this year

AVON, Colorado – Greg Phillips believes that airports are just long-running construction projects with air traffic.

That was the way Phillips, the new manager of the Eagle County Regional Airport, told the Avon Town Council about the biggest part of this summer’s construction work at the airport.

Phillips, along with other county staff members and commissioners Sara Fisher and Jon Stavney, met with Avon council members this week for an update session between the two governments.

Speaking after the session, Phillips said work actually began last fall, in the areas passengers don’t go. That work includes what Phillips called a “Rube Goldberg-looking” system of conveyors that will take bags from the airlines’ ticket counters, then send them through scanners and leave them where they can be put on outbound flights.

Besides all the “backstage” work, the baggage system project will also result in improvements to areas where passengers are. That work is expected to be finished by November, when the first flights of the 2012-13 ski season arrive.

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Through the spring, fall and summer, passengers will have to work around construction in various stages of completion.

The biggest change in the lobby areas will be the removal of the existing bag scanners in the eastern part of the terminal. But those scanners won’t be taken out until the new system has been up and functioning for 30 days.

Taking out the scanners will free up more room in the lobby, and Phillips said. Taking out the gift shop near the security screening area near the restrooms will clear up even more space. That shop will be moved near the eastern entry doors, where outbound passengers usually arrive.

The result of all this work will be a more open, passenger-friendly terminal lobby, Phillips said. That, in turn, will help if and when the airport adds more passenger service.

But the new baggage system will only be for domestic flights, Phillips said. If the airport adds international commercial flights, those passengers will have to clear U.S. Customs at a separate facility, most likely in the airport’s old passenger terminal, which is the west end of the building that houses the Vail Valley Jet Center.

While the baggage system is the biggest item on this year’s to-do list, Phillips said another big job – replacing concrete on the airport’s “apron” areas, where commercial jets park – will start this year. That job will be done in phases over the next three summers, he said.

While it seems work at the airport never ends, Phillips noted that much of the cost of that work is handled through either the U.S. Transportation Security Administration or the Federal Aviation Administration. The county’s share is paid with money collected on every ticket sold into or out of the airport.

“County taxpayers don’t pay any of this,” he said. “In a way, the people coming here are paying for it all.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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