More Airports Renovating, Adding New Terminals

On Wednesday, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport in Alabama opens its newly renovated terminal, the first phase of an expansion and upgrade that will cost more than $200 million. The airport is among many across the country being updated decades after they were built.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's come back to the United States for this next story, because over the past few years, more than a dozen American airports - big and small - have renovated or added new terminals. The latest in Birmingham, Alabama opens today.

NPR's Russell Lewis reports on why so many airports are sprucing up.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: With just hours before the new $200 million terminal was to open, it was a mad dash...

(SOUNDBITE OF DRILLING)

LEWIS: ...as workers drilled signs above the restaurants,

(SOUNDBITE OF UNWRAPPING)

LEWIS: unwrapped supplies at the newsstand and wheeled in new computers.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARTS)

LEWIS: The place is bright and sparkling and a far cry from the dingy, drab and decades-old facility it replaces.

The federal government, airlines and passenger fees paid for the improvements which include a Customs & Immigration facility and a much better security screening operation.

Al Denson is president of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

AL DENSON: And we wanted it to be something that said, wow. The wow factor. And I think that is what we have accomplished.

LEWIS: Elsewhere, Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport is adding gates to handle the world's biggest aircraft. Atlanta just built a new international terminal. Denson says Birmingham - like other cities - wants to standout too.

DENSON: Globalization is here and we have to position ourselves to compete in a global environment.

LEWIS: Another benefit of this new terminal: virtually every seat in the waiting area has electrical sockets - that's something any traveler will love.

Russell Lewis, NPR News, Birmingham.

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