BY DAVID WHITAKER
;Customers enjoy fine casual dining options in very close
proximity to their gates at Port Columbus.
Several years ago I wrote an article for Airport Magazine that told the story of Skybus Airlines from the perspective of Port Columbus
International, the carrier’s base of operations.
That article focused on the four-year odyssey around
the formation of the airline and Port Columbus’
experiences with it. The Skybus journey ended harshly
for all involved, reflecting the stark economic realities
everyone experienced in 2008 and the ensuing years.
Back in 2006 and 2007, the Columbus Regional
Airport Authority invested about $10 million to
renovate the Port Columbus facility for Skybus’ ultra-low cost model. Ironically, that’s approximately the
same amount of direct and ancillary revenue that
Skybus activity generated for the airport.
We removed departure level seating and jetbridges
to accommodate Skybus’ ground load, or hard stand,
operation. We developed ground-level space to create
a large, open gate holdroom with enough passenger
space for four mainline aircraft to load simultaneously.
Skybus constructed its offices and maintenance
facilities adjacent to the large holdroom. We connected
passengers to the holdroom by bumping out the
building and constructing a very large, Americans
with Disabilities Act-compatible, switchback ramp
that eliminated the need for elevators and escalators
between the levels. Inbound passengers could access the
ramp without passing through the departure area.
Fast forward to 2015. The economy is much better
now — with the Columbus region doing particularly
well — and the industry appears to be on the other
side of numerous airline bankruptcies, mergers and
INFRASTRUCTURE and AIR SERVICE
acquisitions. While we have fewer commercial airlines,
we have a healthy industry with profitable air carriers
that are growing and competing for market share.
As a result of this very positive environment, Port
Columbus has come full circle with the former Skybus
space. In conjunction with a complete terminal
modernization effort, we have returned to second level
boarding in the former Skybus zone.
The passenger ramp has been capped to accommodate
both gate holdroom requirements and a 5,000-square-
foot restaurant — Eddie George’s Grille 27 —
overlooking the airfield. The former first floor holdroom