Tampa International Airport officials unveiled the vision for the next two decades to support a growing number of travelers visiting each year.
The master plan — a road map the airport is required to put together for the Federal Aviation Administration every 10 years — includes expanding the baggage claim area, modernizing the ticketing floor, adding electric air taxi service and potentially building a new terminal. Airport officials unveiled the plans at a meeting Tuesday night.
The 20-year plan is to prepare for 38.8 million passengers visiting the airport annually by 2042, about 84% more than 2022.
In the next decade, the master plan recommends expanding the main terminal, originally built more than 50 years ago. That includes finishing the delayed Airside D, which is set to be completed by 2027. Once that is finished, the main terminal will have reached capacity, said airport consultant Pete Ricondo.
That means there may be a need for another one.
What we know about a new terminal so far
Within 15 years, the airport will begin the process of selecting and building a new terminal site north of the current hub, where employee parking and air cargo facilities currently sit.
While Tampa International Airport prides itself for its 1970s hub-and-spoke model, where airsides branch out of the main terminal connected by the tram, Ricondo said the building has been “pinched” for 10 years.
“The challenge now is to take something great and find a way to make it better,” he said. “You want to make sure you’re getting it right. That it’s flexible and responsive to what this community would need from this airport on the horizon.”
The airport is considering other designs for the north terminal, like airsides within the main building or a mix of both. No design has been selected yet.
To accommodate the millions of additional passengers expected within two decades, the first phase of a new terminal would bring 10 to 12 gates, a ticket lobby with 44 counters and up to three baggage carousels. The proposed site has room for up to 45 gates.
“It will be built incrementally over time as as demand continues to dictate,” Ricondo said.
The terminal would help Tampa International accommodate between 55 million and 60 million passengers annually, according to master plan documents.
But first, upgrading the main terminal
The first phase of the master plan is to finish many projects proposed from the last master plan conducted in 2012.
That includes the red express curbside for travelers without checked bags and Airside D. The first phase also mentions expanding an employee and economy parking garage as well as road improvements for SkyCenter Drive Roadway, O’Brien Street and W Spruce Street.
The second phase planned for 2037 will expand the first floor for baggage pick-up and the second-floor for ticketing.
The Tampa airport is struggling with long lines at ticketing counters and needs to make more room for the rise of passengers, officials said. The airport plans to consolidate office spaces behind the counters that have been used for handling over-the-counter ticket sales that have dwindled in the wake of the internet.
The valet service area would also be repurposed.
“Times have evolved. Those functions have changed. Those spaces are needed but the location of where those spaces could be located are more flexible today,” Ricondo said.
The goal is to modernize the area by making more room for rows of kiosks handling self check-ins.
Then there’s electric air taxis
The airport is also preparing for new modes of transportation. It will work to accommodate aircraft of the future, like electric vertical take-off and landing planes, which have a range of use, from passenger service to cargo transportation.
The airport aims to be at the “forefront” of the industry, Ricondo said.
Consultants explored eight potential sites around the airport and found two suitable locations closer to International Mall at the intersections of W. Tampa Bay Boulevard and Airport Service Road or Jim Walter Boulevard and W. Columbus Drive.
Electric plane travel could travel between city to suburbs, the master plan documents show, or from city to city. The airport plans to stay ahead of a rising trend that is expected to have operations in a few cities by 2035, according to a Deloitte study the airport’s master plan cited, and in many more cities with full automation capabilities by 2045.
With the plans laid out, airport officials are now working to figure out how much it’ll cost.