New airport terminals, once delayed, prep for opening this year

New airport terminals can add time-saving features to existing facilities, bringing the latest in technology and security. If and when they open. Local and worldwide economic conditions caused projects to be delayed or shelved for a while. Now, several new facilities are preparing to open and new projects are being approved, signaling a brighter future to come.

The long anticipated and twice delayed inauguration of a new terminal at the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, capital of the northwest province of Guanacaste, is happening this week.

“Costa Rica will be in a very advantageous situation, since we will have the best secondary airport in all of Central America, and perhaps one of the best in Latin America,” Transport Minister Francisco Jiménez told Ticotimes. “This will be a very important part of the development of the northern Pacific region.”

The airport will have the capacity to provide service to 1,500 passengers during peak hours and boasts security upgrades, temporary holding rooms for detained passengers, and dormitories for people in the process of being deported. Said to be the answer to notorious Liberia airport lines that sometimes stretch outside of the terminal, the new facility will be a welcome addition.

Coming up in Las Vegas this June, McCarran International Airport (LAS) opens new $2.4 billion Terminal 3, primarily to serve international and domestic long-haul flights. The new terminal will have 14 gates, a baggage handling system and parking garage and will feature an underground shuttle to the D gates and two floors of security checkpoints. When the new terminal opens, Terminal 2, an eight-gate charter on the airport’s north side, will be torn down.

Miami International Airport‘s (MIA) North Terminal Development Program is quickly nearing completion in 2012. Only three gates remain to be opened in the 50-gate “super concourse,” which is used by American Airlines as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean to serve more than 20 million passengers annually and provide more than 300 daily flights.

Noted as one of the top ten airports for shopping in the world by, the “terminals feel more like shopping malls than airports” reports the Miami Herald.

Indeed, to make airports work in today’s economy, they are becoming much more than just a place where planes take off and land. In addition to destination-like features, community leaders are pushing airport construction and expansion as a way land on sound economic ground.

“We need a healthy economy to thrive as a community. And transportation infrastructure is absolutely a part of this,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chairwoman, when the Sonoma County California Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed an $84 million project to expand Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) to enable more daily commercial flights this week.

“In this economy, this is as close to an economic home run as we’re going to get,” said Jonathan Coe, of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

In Vermont, construction on a new terminal building at Vermont’s Newport State Airport (UUU) could begin as early as this summer. That would be a big step in a $12.8 million expansion project that officials say is designed to boost the area’s economy.

“This 9-year project has put a focus on utilizing our existing airports to mark Vermont not only a destination for vacationers, but also a viable economic force in the Northeast region,” said Guy Rouelle, aviation director for the Vermont Transportation Agency in BusinessWeek.

Utilizing existing airports, remodeling and upgrading facilities to address security concerns and improve the process for passengers has been a long time coming. Signs like these indicate overdue projects will be getting back on track and point to a bright future for American aviation.

But new airports are not popular everywhere as we see in this video.

Flickr photo by gTarded

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Best Buy airport kiosks: Rip off or godsend?

America-sized vending machines are the new big things at the nation’s airports, giant robots that help you pick out the last second headphones or digital camera that you forgot to bring on the road.

If they’re anything like the airport Burger King, however, then consumers should be concerned about the markup. Like the restaurant, it’s always possible that airport retailers can inflate the price of their goods because they have a monopoly on the local market, squeezing passengers for more cash and gouging for a few extra dollars.

Concerned, Gadling Labs took a quick survey of the Las Vegas airport Best Buy Kiosk and then did a comparison with the current online prices. What we found was that prices were identical between the airport and the online store, from headphones to cameras to HD video devices. Here are a few examples:

Sony Bloggie Touch: ($199|$199) (LAS|Online)
Bose OE Audio Headphones: ($179|$179) (LAS|Online)
Skullcandy Skullcrusher Headphones ($69|$69) (LAS|Online)

What does this mean? That Best Buy is charging passing airport customers the same price that it charges its customers elsewhere. Way to go Best Buy — it’s the classy thing to do.

Virgin America Now Selling Tickets

Finally, Virgin America has started selling tickets! One-way tickets between SFO and JFK are roughly $139-$199 which — considering the amenities on board — is pretty cheap. Here’s the upcoming route map:

  • San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to New York (JFK)
  • New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) begins August 29.
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Washington D.C. (IAD) begins September 26.
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Las Vegas (LAS) begins October 10.
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Washington D.C. (IAD) October 24.

To purchase tickets, head to Virgin America’s website.

Here are some other VA facts:

  • Virgin America is the first U.S. airline with mood lighting.
  • There are 3000 MP3s onboard every flight.
  • You can plug in to 110v power at every seat. (!!)
  • You can order fresh food when you want it, from the screen at your seat.
  • Red, the in-flight entertainment system, has over 25 pay-per-view Hollywood movies on demand.
  • Virgin America is a cashless airline. Place your order, swipe your card, and you’re done.

Also: Our sister site, Engadget, got a sneak peak at the planes a few months ago. Check out their wicked photo gallery.

(Thanks, David!)