Gulf Shores To Build Temporary Airport Terminal, Welcome New Flights This Summer
By John Sharp, AL.com, April 19, 2022
Gulf Shores city officials believe they have a solution to relieving traffic congestion onto Pleasure Island.
“Fly to Alabama’s Beaches,” as the Gulf Shores Airport Authority’s brand campaign says.
But to get travelers to the beaches aboard a plane, a terminal is needed in a region where commercial aviation has never existed before.
That is about to change.
The latest development occurred Monday when the Gulf Shores City Council appeared ready to give the go-ahead to Gulf Shores airport manager Scott Fuller to pursue a short-term agreement for the construction of a modular terminal.
“It’s an exciting time for our community,” said Jason Dyken, a Gulf Shores city councilman and airport authority member. “Our market is very hot.”
The council will officially vote next week on a short-term agreement with Atlanta-based Tbi Airport Management to finance an interim facility that will be installed on the airport’s property.
Fuller said the agreement is needed to accommodate commercial airlines poised to enter the coastal Alabama market by August 31.
“We have air service ready to start on August 31 and for that to take place, we need to move now,” said Fuller.
The temporary terminal is expected to be a 12,000-square-foot structure and is budgeted to cost around $4 million. It will include electronic kiosks and six ticket counters, enough space for two TSA screeners, a holding room and restrooms.
A baggage area will be covered but located outdoors.
Fuller said Tbi will manage the operations of the new venue for nine months to accommodate the new service.
The airport authority anticipates receiving 90% of the landing fees, or an estimated $4,000 per month.
The temporary facility will remain in place until a permanent, two-gate airport terminal is built. Fuller said the overall project is estimated to cost $24 million, and Tbi and VINCI Airports are charged with the operations and construction of the new facility.
Fuller told AL.com on Friday that they are “realistically looking at four years” to build a permanent terminal.
The airlines, though, are coming. Fuller said two carries have signed letters of intent to fly out of Gulf Shores: Sun Country, which will provide flights to Minneapolis, and Elite Airways, which offers flights to Nashville.
Another airline, which has not been named by the authority, is also angling to move into Gulf Shores. That airline, Fuller said, is planning commercial flights up to seven destinations. An announcement on that service is expected by June.
Gulf Shores airport officials are pursuing commercial fights to assist city officials in alleviating congested beach bound roadways, especially Alabama State Route 59.
Studies show that almost all visitors to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach arrive by vehicle. Of the close to 7 million people who visited the beaches in 2018 and 2019, a whopping 92% arrived by car or truck during the peak summer travel months.
“Our main focus is getting people out of their cars and alleviate some of the traffic issues here,” Fuller said.
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