The last phase of a $161 million expansion and makeover of Philadelphia International Airport's busy Terminal F has opened: an ultra-modern glass and light-filled baggage-claim building on the arrivals roadway.
Since late 2013, 20,000 square feet of retail offerings, including a food court, as well as more passenger seating and a larger shuttle-bus stop have opened in Terminal F. There's a new ticket counter and a larger security screening area. A pedestrian walkway was positioned behind security connecting Terminals E and F. Passengers, for the first time, can walk the entire 1.25-mile stretch of terminals between F and international Terminal A-West within the secured area.
American Airlines, which has about 210 daily departures from Terminal F, was project manager for the improvements, financed mainly by rates and charges paid by the airlines.
Officials from PHL and American Airlines, joined by a string quartet from the Philadelphia Orchestra, will celebrate the official opening of the two-story baggage-claim hall and the completion of Terminal F on Friday morning.
Terminal F's redesign "operationally improved how the gates work, and the passenger flows in the terminal," said Philadelphia airport CEO Chellie Cameron. Reconfiguring the retail space and the shuttle-bus stop allowed for more circulation space, she said.
The old baggage claim was near the ticket counter on the departures road -- not on the arrivals road, where families and friends expect to meet travelers. There were times when passengers were unable to connect with people picking them up, and had to grab their bags and run across five lanes of traffic. "This was a long-standing issue that we are really happy to fix," Cameron said. "We think it makes the airport operate a lot more intuitively to passengers, especially those who don't travel frequently."
The new $35 million, 34,000-square-foot Terminal F baggage claim, which meets LEED Gold certification standards for energy and environmental conservation, is next to the other baggage claims on the arrivals road, with a taxi stand and shuttle buses to rental cars and parking lots outside.
"The completion of the Terminal F project is a great day for American,” said Suzanne Boda, the airline's senior vice president of hubs and gateways. “This state-of-the-art LEED Gold-certified bag-claim facility, coupled with recent renovations to F Terminal, provides our travelers with a greater level of customer service while enhancing our focus on environmental stewardship.”
Baggage claims are often dark and dreary, confined to a lower level. The new Terminal F bag claim is airy, with artwork, plants, and glass everywhere.
"This is my second time through here. It's wonderful," said Fred Karl, who was walking with his wife, Betsey, through the area to catch a flight to Erie.
"It's bright and cheerful -- beautiful," said Betty Jane Livingston of East Falls, who met her sister Kathleen Israel, visiting from Indianapolis.
As she collected her checked bag, Israel noted that the walk from her gate was "much shorter and much more convenient" than in the past.
Shelley Lyman, of Flemington, N.J., arrived from a trip to Nashville with her parents, Priscilla and Dick Stothoff. They said they liked Terminal F because it was smaller than other airport terminals, quicker to get through security, and easy to get their luggage.
The terminal's redesign, which was completed in stages, was not part of a longer-term airport-expansion plan that calls for lengthening two runways, replacing current rental-car surface lots with a multistory consolidated rental-car building, and designing an automated "people mover" to transport passengers between terminals. Airlines at PHL, under terms of their lease, are expected to notify the city-owned airport by the end of this year which construction project, or projects, they want to do next.
Nearly 17 percent of PHL's 31.6 million annual passengers start or end trips in Terminal F, which was designed in the late 1990s for smaller, 30- and 50-seat planes.
When the $98 million terminal opened in 2001, US Airways flew 175 daily Express flights out of Terminal F. Today, American and merger partner US Airways operate 210 daily Express flights and use all 38 gates. Small Dash-8 turbo propeller planes are being phased out and replaced with 90-seat jets.