Why is the Baton Rouge Metro Airport rotunda being expanded? Could this money have been used to attract a low-cost carrier, or could it have been used to reduce the cost of parking, which has gone up over the years? I do not see the benefit.
Response from Jim Caldwell, manager of Air Service Development, Marketing and Public Relations, at Metro Airport:
The existing rotunda and security screening area at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR) was built prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the post 9/11 security changes, non-ticketed airport visitors could access the secure area of the terminal to meet or see passengers off.
After 9/11, access to the secure area of the terminal was restricted to ticketed passengers only. At BTR, this forced airport guests awaiting arriving passengers or accompanying departing ones to congregate in the same area where arriving passengers exit the secure area and departing passengers clear security, creating a bottleneck.
The BTR terminal renovation project will allow the existing rotunda area to become an arrival court, providing a spacious area for non-ticketed airport visitors to meet arriving or departing passengers. Transportation Security Administration screening will be relocated to the expanded area of the rotunda, and an additional screening position will be provided. An interior glass wall will separate the arrival court portion from the new, expanded rotunda area where TSA screening will be relocated.
The money for this project comes from the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) Program. The Federal Aviation Administration-approved PFC fees are added to ticket prices at public, commercial airports; and the airports use PFC fees to fund "FAA-approved projects to enhance safety, security, or capacity." The PFC funds are specifically earmarked for brick and mortar airport improvements and cannot be used for airline incentives or parking subsidies.
Regarding money used to attract a low-cost carrier, public airports that accept FAA funding must comply with certain restrictions in providing incentives for new air service when using airport funds for those incentives. Using airport funds, BTR currently provides temporary marketing support, rent reductions and waivers of landing fees for an airline (new or incumbent) meeting the new service criteria. While airport funds may not be used as an exclusive offer to a single airline, these restrictions do not apply if the money comes from sources other than airport funds such as chambers of commerce, foundations, area corporations, etc.