Tompkins County Airport to be Renovated This Fall

This fall, Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport will undergo a major renovation, slated to finish by 2019, that will allow it to support international flights and enhance passenger experience, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday at the airport.

The airport, which hasn’t been upgraded in 25 years, is currently equipped with passenger screening equipment that only meets pre-9/11 standards and lacks dining area past the security checkpoint.

“It doesn’t have charisma or character,” Cuomo said.

The upcoming renovation, according to Cuomo, will add a new 5,000-feet custom facility, six boarding gates, three boarding bridges and a 4,000-feet dining area to the airport while also doubling its current building size. These upgrades will enhance the check-in experience at ticket counters and shorten the lines at security checkpoint, Cuomo said.

Mike Hall, director of the airport, said that the new custom facilities will allow Ithaca to accommodate international flights given the many global connections that Tompkins County has.

“We are more dependent on the airport than many communities,” Hall told The Sun. “We will be focusing on the travel from Pacific Rim or Europe that’s coming here to do business with high tech industry, with Cornell, [and] to attend conferences.”

Even though the renovated airport will come with a federal customs facility, Hall doesn’t see many international flights taking off from Ithaca as “there is not sufficient travel from this airport to accommodate the size of the international aircrafts.” The upgrades will, however, make it easier for people to fly to major national hubs, he said.

According to Hall, the airport is also in talks with the three airlines that currently offer services to and from Ithaca — Delta, United and American — on the possibilities of offering direct flights to Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C., in addition to the current non-stop destinations of Newark, N.J., Philadelphia and Detroit.

“I think you’ll probably see some changes [in flight schedule] over the next year or so, particularly now [that] we have a better terminal coming,” Hall said.

The $22 million renovation — of which the state will contribute $14.2 million — is part of the Cuomo administration’s plan to boost the economy in upstate New York area, which, according to Cuomo, is “playing more and more of a role on a global stage.”

Convenient transportation and passenger experience, categories in which the United States has fallen behind other countries, are important qualities in attracting more business and young talents from all over the world, according to Cuomo.

“Airports are the new front doors to the economy … they are the economic hubs of the next century. This is a national and global competition, and we are not even in the game,” Cuomo said. “Ithaca deserves an airport that will fuel the economic growth [and] fuel the perception that [it is] the place for the future.”

The construction will begin this fall and is estimated to be finished by 2019, according to Cuomo. Calling it an “aggressive timeline,” Hall said he’s optimistic that “a year from now, we should have significant changes that will make life easier.”

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