Often in life, defining moments pass by without much consideration of the long term impacts on our future. Occasionally, the change is so dramatic it can’t be missed, like the birth of a child, and then later sending that same child off to college and to a bright future.
In 2011, we experienced such a moment at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, an important economic engine Gilbert partly owns.
Gateway Airport will be turning 18 years old this coming spring. It is fitting age. And today, much like a child becoming an adult, Gateway Airport has truly grown up – right before our eyes. Years from now, we will reflect back on the significance of this recent, dramatic, growth as the point in time where Gateway took a major step into actualizing its planned purpose as a commercial alternative to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. With the success of Gateway’s first air carrier and the recent announcement of Spirit Airlines, the entire country is warming up to the reality that the Valley now has two commercial airports. Much like LAX has John Wayne Airport and O’Hare Midway, Gateway is on its way.
What is not known to many, Gateway Airport’s mission statement of “maintaining, growing, and operating the Airport safely and efficiently, while providing exceptional service” is governed by a set of important values: “Safety,” “Pride,” “Integrity,” “Responsibility,” “Innovation,” and “Talk.” “S.P.I.R.I.T.” With that, perhaps one could say it is quite fitting that Spirit Airlines has chosen to be the second airline to operate at Gateway.
Spirit is an ultra-low cost airline focused on innovation and efficiency, much like Gateway is a low cost airport that also prides itself on innovation and a “plane easy” terminal experience.
The end of 2011 brought strong steps forward to our airport. As we announced our second airline, and its new destinations, we expanded our terminal from six gates to ten. We recently opened a new 2,700 parking lot located at Ray and Sossaman Road; and in the next 18 months, we will be radically changing the layout of the current ticketing and security check point area. Where you currently see the Rental Cars counters, will eventually become the TSA check point; this baggage claim area will double in size; and we will have a dramatic entry point into the baggage claim area. There will also be a significant increase in curb space outside for customers dropping off and picking up passengers.
In 2011, we reached another defining moment in our history. As we begin a new year, it will continue to be “plane easy” to fly out of Gateway Airport and we will focus on keeping it easy in the future as well.
- John Lewis is Mayor of the Town of Gilbert