By Guy Busby, Government Editor, email@example.com
GULF SHORES – Commercial airline flights will be taking off from the Gulf Shores International Airport by September under plans being considered by the city council.
At an April 18 council work session, Scott Fuller, Gulf Shores Airport Authority manager said two airlines have signed letters of intent to start services as early as the end of August. A third airline is also discussing plans to start services.
He said the services will require that a temporary terminal be built while a new permanent facility can be constructed.
On Tuesday, April 19, Mayor Robert Craft said Elite Airlines will be flying 70-passenger jets to Nashville and other cities.
Sun Country Airlines will be flying Boeing 737 180-passenger jets to Minneapolis and other locations. Fuller said Sun Country will focus on services for winter visitors from the Midwest.
A third airline has also signed an informal letter of intent to provide services between Gulf Shores and Dallas, Craft said.
“If you can get to Dallas, you can get to anywhere in the world,” Craft said.
Councilman Joe Garris said the airlines will provide a needed service for the Gulf Coast.
“I think it's a great thing that we're fixing to get involved in and I think we're ready for it to happen,” Garris said. “It's just a matter of getting everything in line and get it done.”
Fuller said the Airport Authority is working on a long-term agreement for the construction of a passenger terminal at the airport. He said TBI Airport Management of Atlanta and the French company, Vinci Airports of Paris will construct the new facility.
The long-term agreement will take up to four months to complete. In the meantime, TBI will establish a short-term facility to serve customers when services start later this year, Fuller said.
The company will set up a 12,000-square-foot building on the airport apron while construction of a permanent terminal is going on.
Councilman Jason Dyken said going ahead with a temporary terminal will allow Gulf Shores to get a needed service started as soon as possible.
“Our airport has been very successful with the expansion of the taxiway and air traffic-controlled space,” Dyken said. “Being a leisure destination has generated a lot of interest from many airlines and one particularly is interested in starting service soon and so that kind of forced our hand to figure out how do we solve the problem of if we are able to get this service here, it would be a huge coup for the airport and a real success, but we couldn't do that with the time lag of developing a permanent terminal.”
Dyken said the Airport Authority looked at several options for establishing services, including having the city run the operation or using private companies.
“We went through that due diligence process and determined that privatization was the way to go,” Dyken said. “Then we went through a process to determine and vet several potential partners in that and that's where we came to TBI and so the role of them were to really come in and construct a permanent terminal for air service.”
Fuller said that when the permanent terminal is completed, the facility will include six ticket counters, a TSA area, a holding area and two gates. The initial terminal will have one security station with space for a second site when it is needed.