THUNDER BAY -- A multi-million dollar upgrade to the interior of the terminal at Thunder Bay Airport is set to begin next month.
By the time the work is done a year from now, the stress that can happen during peak departure times, in particular, should be noticeably reduced.
Airport President and CEO Ed Schmidtke says the departures lounge will expand by better than 50 per cent, from 6100 sq. ft. to 9500 sq. ft.
The arrivals area will also become more spacious.
The extra space comes from the relocation of Transport Canada offices to the upper floor.
Schmidtke said congestion that occurs during the morning rush will be alleviated.
"It's definitely cramped for anybody who's been here at six o'clock, trying to grab a flight. They know that it's hard to get place to stand, never mind sit."
The project is the first major renovation inside the terminal since it opened in 1994.
Schmidtke cautioned that the construction project will pose some challenges and may cause some inconvenience.
"It's going to be tricky, and it's going to impose on passengers in different ways at different times because we need to do this work around an operational departure lounge."
Thunder Bay Airport is also collaborating with CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, to make travel through the airport more convenient.
Schmidtke said the federal agency plans to install an upgraded passenger screening system called CATSA Plus.
"They're going to bring their latest technology to Thunder Bay, and we'll be the first mid-tier airport in Canada to unveil it."
He said that the net impact will be a much-accelerated passenger screening process.
Aesthetic improvements are also part of the plan, with new stone and wood finishes designed to bring "a Canadian Shield feel" to the terminal.
Schmidtke added that adjustments are also likely in the food service at the airport, potentially including an expansion of amenities. Details, however, are still being worked out.
Thunder Bay Airport, the third busiest in Ontario, last year set a new record for annual passenger volume, with over 800,000 passengers.