If you’re catching a flight at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the next few months, give yourself a few extra minutes to find the new baggage claim area.

And the new car rental counters.

Plus the new area to buy tickets.

Along with a new security checkpoint.

And hungry travelers will probably notice the Paradise Bakery has moved – between two new gates.

Basically, nearly all of Gateway’s key amenities are changing as part of a $10 million terminal expansion. The biggest changes begin with a relocated baggage claim on Friday. Other services will move within the terminal every few weeks until the 30,000-square foot project’s completion in October.

Airport spokesman Brian Sexton advised passengers to pack their patience as Gateway expands to handle rapid growth.

“Some passengers consider Gateway as a smaller terminal environment so they may feel they don’t need to get here the normal two hours in advance,” Sexton said. “But we continue to encourage that because it is in transition.”

Two new baggage carousels should be ready for the first Friday morning flight, an improvement on the single unit. Passengers will access the baggage claim through a temporary corridor that will shield them from a busy construction zone in the terminal expansion.

Part of a new curbside pickup area will open along with the carousels, which Sexton said will help minimize crowding when multiple planes arrive at the same time.

“You get a longer curb length, and that should alleviate some of the vehicle congestion,” he said.

Once the old luggage conveyer is removed, crews will clear a space for car rental agencies to relocate. Then workers will gut the terminal’s south end to more than double the number of ticketing stations and to redesign the security checkpoint.

By October, a 30,000-square foot expansion on the terminal’s north end will debut. The space includes two gates – bringing the airport to eight gates – and a new home for Paradise Bakery. The current location is before passengers get through security, which made the Copper Plate the only food option while waiting for a flight.

Paradise Bakery will operate a kiosk to serve people who haven’t gone through security yet.

The expansion will expand the terminal to 90,000-square feet. As soon as work is done, the airport will begin a year-long project on two additional gates. That 16,000-square foot addition, estimated to cost $4.5 million, will only add a seating area and won’t lead to another other changes in the terminal.

The 10-gate terminal is needed because Gateway’s two low-cost airlines, Allegiant and Spirit, are expected to expand service. And Gateway is continuously talking with other carriers who are eyeing the area.

But even if no additional service comes, Sexton said Gateway expects passenger traffic to grow 11 percent because Allegiant has added 16 seats to each aircraft.

The terminal will reach its maximum size in 2013. After that, Gateway has plans to build a $1.4 billion terminal on the airport’s east side. The first phase will cost $343 million and have 14 gates.

Gateway doesn’t have a firm date to begin. The airport will have to work on funding with the federal government, the cities that own the airport and the airlines to establish a timeline, Sexton said.

“It’s going to take a couple years just to get all those relationships solidified and to start to advance that project,” he said.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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