OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — As the air travel industry continues to recover from the pandemic shutdown, officials at Oakland International Airport are eyeing plans for a huge expansion.
It doesn’t exactly look like Thanksgiving weekend, but the crowds of passengers are growing, both in the air terminal and on the planes themselves.READ MORE: UPDATE: Streets Flood in San Rafael, Mill Valley as Wild Storm Lashes Bay Area
“Shoulders against shoulders, elbows against elbows, and I think I lot of people are just really excited to get back out there and make up for lost time,” said passenger Katie Grimm.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said passenger Ron Susa, “and I think it’s going to get even worse, in terms of crowds in the not too distant future.”
But it is the distant future that airport officials are focusing on. Currently, the facility is operating at about 60% of pre-COVID activity. But the Port of Oakland, which operates the airport, projects that it will have to serve an extra 10 million people per year by 2034 after recovering from the pandemic.
“We’re pretty confident that Bay Area air travel demand is going to grow with the future,” said port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur. “So we really need to modernize our terminals and be prepared for that.”READ MORE: Atmospheric River: High Winds Topple Trees, Scaffolding in San Francisco
The airport is envisioning a huge new renovation project. The two existing terminals will be merged into one and remodeled. Another brand new terminal will be constructed adjacent to the current facility in an area that is now used for economy parking and cargo shipping. The idea is to expand capacity while offering a better experience, both for customers and the air carriers themselves.
“We have airline operators who need to plan for the future as well, and they expect there to be an increased demand in travel over the next several years,” said Sandifur. “So, we have to accommodate their needs as well, as we improve our facilities.”
The airport has already prepared a draft environmental impact report and will hold community meetings about the project on May 25 and 26. The current timeline has construction beginning sometime in 2025 and lasting until about 2028.
Air traveler Kio Johnson returned to Oakland on a flight from Houston Monday and thinks they may want to move those expansion plans to an earlier date if possible.
“People will be coming back to normal before businesses and the airlines get up and going, if they don’t kick start this a little bit faster,” said Johnson. “Because, people are going to come out, no question about it.”MORE NEWS: Atmospheric River: More Than 147,000 Affected by Widespread Bay Area Outages