Tulsa Airport Improvements Bring Dining, Retail
By D. J. MORROW INGRAM
NEW RETAIL: Explore! Tulsa is one of 17 food, beverage and retail shops that will be added to the Tulsa International Airport within the next year to better serve passengers.
“Awesome” is the word Mary Smith, marketing director for the Tulsa Airport Authority, now hears from visitors to the Tulsa International Airport (TIA). And it’s spreading.
Major improvements to the passenger terminal at TIA were evident in April when the new centralized security area opened to the public. The separate checkpoints at Concourses A and B are now consolidated into one that leads passengers into a newly constructed terminal area that connects the two concourses.
“The new area is beautiful,” Smith says. “It features a 600-foot glass wall and offers a panoramic view of the airfield.”
The new construction also offers passengers access to a myriad of restaurants and retail stores that can be accessed by anyone who has cleared security. Open now, or coming soon, are T.G.I. Friday’s, Varsity Sports Grill and Bar, Java Dave’s Coffee shops, Novel Idea Book Store, CNBC News and Gift Shops, Explore; Tulsa gift shop, a PGA store, the Green Country Market and the Cherry Street Travel Mart. Camille’s Sidewalk Café opened in early August.
Over the coming months Cherry Street Café and a food court including Mazzio’s Italian Eatery, Freckles Frozen Custard, Starbuck’s Coffee and more will be open to the public.
“Tulsa International Airport is working hard to meet the demands of travelers by providing new shops and restaurants that are unique to the Tulsa area in addition to some that are nationally recognized,” she says. “We expect that within a year we will have over 17 food, beverage and retail shops to serve the more than five million people who visit the Tulsa International Airport each year.”
Those five million people and the industries connected to them are big business for the Tulsa area making a $3.2 billion impact on the region.
“There are approximately 200 aerospace companies in Tulsa employing nearly 12,000 people.”
The improvements to the airport have been in the works since before 9-11 according to Jeff Mulder, who was named airport director in May, 2005. The security needs post-9-11 made the changes more critical.
“We had to find a way to enhance and improve the security process but keep it efficient. Security is our priority each and every day,” he says.
One critical change is the screening of passenger bags.
“Prior to 9-11 we would screen about ten percent of the passenger bags. Now we screen 100 percent.”
Mulder said passenger traffic has been slowly building since the sharp decline following 9-11. In August, 2001, TIA had 329,575 passengers. The total for the following month of September was 187,782. Total passengers for July, 2005, were 321,315.
Along with passengers, airlines are important customers for TIA, Mulder says. TIA has seven major airlines with 80 departures daily—17 of those are non-stop to their destinations.
“We have about 13,000 airline seats we could fill each day in and out. Right now we are filling about 10,000.”
Mulder says it is important to be pro-active and responsive to attract air passengers and that TIA is dedicating marketing dollars to attract both passengers and airline services.
An example of such marketing was a recent promotion with the Tulsa Drillers that gave away a trip to Denver that included tickets to the Colorado Rockies and round-trip airfare.
The next project in line is the demolition of the old “meeter-greeter” lounges and construction of new areas that will tie into the retail centers.
“Some of the upcoming work is less glamorous,” Smith said. “We have asbestos removal, new roofing and relocation of air conditioning units to do. Ultimately the baggage claim areas will be renovated.
“The airport truly is the front door of Tulsa,” she says. “We are working hard to create something in which all Tulsans can be proud.”