How SLC International Airport is helping elderly passengers with long walk to gate

Local News

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City. The number of people flying in the United States has eclipsed the year-ago level for the first time in the pandemic period, although travel remains deeply depressed from 2019. The Transportation Security Administration said 1.34 million people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, March 14 topping the 1.26 million people that TSA screened on the comparable Sunday a year ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(ABC4) – Many people come to Utah for exercise in the great outdoors. And some find that exercise begins at the new Salt Lake City International Airport as soon as they get off the plane.

The new airport, which opened its doors in the midst of the pandemic, greets visitors with a 20-minute walk of a little over half a mile from the security checkpoint to Concourse B.

And while the walk may be nothing more than an inconvenience for some, elderly visitors and those who have trouble walking may find themselves tired out quickly. Fortunately, the airport has accommodations to help these visitors.

According to Nancy Volmer, Director for Communications and Marketing at Salt Lake City International Airport, the airport has wheelchairs, along with workers, to help people operate the chairs and get to their gate. It also has moving walkways to assist visitors through the concourses and golf cart-like vehicles that carry six people at a time through the tunnel.

Betty Jane Ross, 80, went through the airport to visit family in Utah in late May.

“It was just exhausting,” Ross says of the walk through the airport from her gate to passenger pick-up.

On her return trip, she says she knew that she would need to utilize the airport’s accommodations and requested a wheelchair.

“It was actually wonderful, and the transporter from Salt Lake was so considerate. You know, she said, ‘do you want to stop at the restroom, or do you want to stop and get a snack before we get there?’ And so she was more than nice. She was just very polite and considerate, and she was actually a very upbeat person,” Ross tells ABC4.

“They also wheeled me right up to the plane door and put my luggage overhead!” she adds.

Volmer says passengers can request a wheelchair while booking their flight; that is the most efficient way to do it.

“But of course if they didn’t know that when they came to the airport, we have two podiums that are at the top of the escalators on level three that we have staff at to assist people who need wheelchair access,” Volmer states. “They can go to the podiums and arrange for that.”

Volmer says the newer airport may have a seemingly longer walk to and from the gates because of a new layout and larger planes.

“It’s just a different configuration. The airport before was like a pier or finger configuration. And so, only one aircraft could move in and out at one time. Now, the airlines use larger planes… so instead of the smaller regional jets they used to be able to access at the former airport, now there’s larger aircraft….” Volmer says. “It was designed to accommodate those larger planes.”

The larger aircraft have longer wingspans and require a certain amount of spacing, Volmer explains. “It does take up more room than those smaller regional jets used to.”

Walking from the security checkpoint to concourse B takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes and is about .6 miles, Volmer says. And those coming from a parking garage or an economy lot will have a longer walk.

“It is a larger airport, so that will take longer to navigate. And so we’re encouraging everyone to arrive two hours prior to their boarding time for domestic flights and then three hours prior to boarding for international flights, and that’s what the airline’s recommend as well,” Volmer states.

Visit slcairport.com for an airport map.

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