Airport board approves $1 billion expansion plan for OIA

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board approved a massive expansion for Orlando International Airport Wednesday.

The $1 billion expansion program will double the size of the airport.    

Board members said they have to be ready for air traffic to double and that they've been charting growth over many years.

Despite the fact the airport is in a down year officials said they believe the bigger trend is going to force OIA to get a lot bigger or lose a lot of business.

Changes to be made immediately will include a $148 million upgrade in baggage handling equipment. Big changes down the road include a $470 million people mover and a second terminal designed to double the airport's capacity to 45 million passengers per year.

"You can't wait until the demand is there and then say, 'let's build,' because then you're a couple of years behind your competitors," said GOAA chair Frank Kruppenbacher.

With overall passenger traffic down at OIA for the second year, the massive expansion plan came with conditions and triggers that would have to be met before setting the spending into action. The board decided OIA must have six consecutive months running at an annual rate of 40 million passengers, with two million of those flying in from outside the United States, before expansion begins.

"(There is) not a board member who sits on this board right now who's going to vote to spend this money until it's absolutely needed," said Kruppenbacher.

Passenger fees are critical to the plan, but airport board members said the spending will not mean a bump in ticket prices.

Officials said eight major air carriers supported the expansion plan, but five did not, including two, Delta and Southwest, that Kruppenbacher described as major critics.

He said, with hubs in Atlanta and Houston, it's not in their business plans to see OIA expand into a major international destination.