Hagerstown Regional Airport plans to expand its passenger-holding space and add an automated baggage-conveyer system to ease growing pains from a new commercial air service, Airport Director Phil Ridenour said Tuesday.
The Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the airport to use $200,000 in county funds and $200,000 in federal grant funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the terminal modifications.
That funding had been allocated for site work to prepare the northwest quadrant of the airport for future development, but with the introduction of 150-passenger flights to Myrtle Beach and Florida from Direct Air, airport officials decided the terminal modifications were more pressing, Ridenour said.
The regional commission has already approved the switch, he said.
The airport's existing holding room is designed to accommodate 100 passengers, Ridenour said. The project will convert the airport's conference room to additional holding space, increasing the capacity to about 150 passengers, he said.
The modification is meant as a temporary solution, Ridenour said. Eventually, the airport plans to build two expansion areas totaling 2,100 square feet, he said.
Ridenour said the baggage carousel will help handle the large volume of luggage — and golf clubs — likely to accompany each Direct Air flight.
"Now, we have to take them off of the cart, we put them on a shelf, then we take them off of the shelf and set them on the floor, and it's just kind of a free-for-all when the passengers take their bags," he said.
Commissioner John F. Barr applauded the plans to make the passenger experience smoother.
"I've witnessed the chaos, and the almost inhumane transition of 150 passengers boarding, 150 passengers ... deplaning, then you throw in another 150 well-meaning family, friends, well-wishers, kissers and huggers, and you know, it's been a zoo," Barr said.