As mask mandates expire, officials predict Salt Lake International Airport will be busier than ever.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Travelers ride a cart through the tunnel to the South Concourse, at the Salt Lake International Airport, on Thursday, June 3, 2021.
| March 4, 2022, 2:44 p.m.
The Salt Lake City International Airport is gaining popularity. So much popularity that the renovated airport served 30,950 people last Sunday — a one-day record number of travelers passing through the front doors. And Bill Wyatt, the Executive Director of Salt Lake City’s Department of Airports, doesn’t see trips to the Beehive State slowing down any time soon.
“Salt Lake City and Utah are hot economically,” Wyatt said, “so there’s a lot of motivation for airlines to, you know, to put in new services.”
Within the first two months of the new year, the airport has made some major strides, including Spirit Airlines Utah debut, more direct flights to Europe and the return of Canada Airlines.
The main reason for the new flights, Wyatt notes, is the airport can finally accommodate a high volume of passengers. Before the expansion, Wyatt says the airport struggled to keep up with demand and the lack of space limited the number of flights and airlines able to land in Utah.
Now, with a larger airport and more services, projections predict 28 million people will travel through SLC International by next year—a state record.
Wyatt calls the projection conservative.
“I’m expecting we will have a much higher volume than the forecast suggests,” Wyatt said, noting that 27 million people traveled through the older, much smaller airport.
Spirit debut and more direct flights
The airport is adding more non-stop flights and two new airlines to the roster.
Currently, about 105 direct domestic flights land in Salt Lake City every day, Wyatt says, a big jump from the roughly 40 direct flights prior to the airport expansion.
“These non-stop flights are incredibly important to the tourist industry because businesses want to be able to travel conveniently to as many places as they possibly can,” Wyatt highlighted. “So it’s really exciting to see this trend develop where we are in fact getting new service and in some cases, really competitive service too.”
Spirit Airlines, a Florida-based airline known for its cheap tickets, announced it will be taking off from the Salt Lake Airport tarmac for the first time in late May. The airline intends to offer flights to Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
European airlines are also making more trips to Utah. Beginning May 23, 2022, Eurowings Discover, a new German airline, will start offering nonstop services to Frankfurt, Germany.
Delta Airlines is also bringing back nonstop flights to Amsterdam, London and Paris once summertime hits.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delta planes and construction of the next phase can be seen through the windows on the main terminal, at the Salt Lake International Airport, on Thursday, June 3, 2021.
With the new additions and return of postponed services, “Utahns will have more access to Europe than ever before,” Nancy Volmer, a spokesperson for the airport, said.
Most recently, Canada Airlines announced additional service from Toronto to Salt Lake as the company sees renewed interest in traveling as international COVID-19 restrictions relax.
There is still a handful of renovations that need to be completed before the new airport is finished. As of now, Wyatt says the project is about halfway through. Construction crews still need to add four more gates to Concourse A, which is expected to be done by next November.
By Oct. 2024, Wyatt says a tunnel between Concourse A and Concourse B will be open to travelers and make the commute “just vastly simpler.”
As mask mandates expire throughout the world, Wyatt hypothesizes the spring and summer seasons will be “incredibly busy” for the airport.
“I think with the mask mandate going away, it’ll be symbolically just a huge signal to people who want to get out of their basement and go somewhere,” Wyatt said.
How long all the renovations will take to complete is still up in the air. With the current volume of travelers, Wyatt believes some modifications will be necessary to keep up with traffic. Volmer confirms the airport may enter phase four of the project, which would add 16 more gates to Concourse B.
(Rick Bowmer | AP) Travelers lineup at a Delta ticket counter at Salt Lake City International Airport, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Salt Lake City.