The New Hanover County Airport Authority has a new chairperson... and for the first time in its history, the chair is a woman. Donna Girardot was appointed to the position last week. She becomes Chair as Wilmington International Airport goes through another year of growth. WHQR sat down with Girardot, to discuss her new role.
Donna Girardot: “I'm very excited. This is really a vibrant dynamic airport. And we had record numbers of growth last year, both at new flights and income revenue and new services. We've got a new Air Wilmington, ownership for Air Wilmington. We've got a new flight school out there. So everything is just on the up and up. It's going up and I, this is a great time to be stepping in.”
Vince Winkel: “In April of this year, United began their service to the airport joining American Airlines and Delta. So there are three network airlines, travelers can fly nonstop to eight destinations, seven hubs and six international gateways. And as you mentioned, every month it seems like the passenger traffic increases. It's another record breaking year. What is at the top of your to-do list as Airport Authority Chair?”
Donna: “The first thing we have to concentrate on is our customers and serving them. And the thing that makes that airport so special is the fact that you know, you can arrive and of course now you arrive a little bit longer because we're getting busier. You've got to, you've got to get there a little bit earlier than just getting out of bed, getting your shower and, and turning up at the airport to catch your flight. You know we've got an airport that allows you within steps to park your car and, and, and got your steps away from your luggage when you come in and it's just a nice southern hospitality airport.
“I think that reflects on the community well. So continue obviously the growth where we are and we've still got a few destinations that we'll be working on Boston, one of them. And a couple other destinations that would serve our public on both the business and, and the tourist customer. We are growing and we're growing so fast that we're, and we're totally, we're running out of room. The TSA equipment and all of that, the checkpoints have taken up so much of our space. So, those are probably things will be concentrating on.”
Vince: “The expansion plans that you just mentioned. What sort of timeframe are we looking at and how are these expansions a funded? Is it a public private partnership? Are there federal dollars?”
Donna: “We have, we're doing it in phases and the first phase actually we approved the contract to go out for bids on that just in July, I believe it was this month. That’ll be the lobby and the baggage areas we are going to be expanding. And that will be completed in about February of 2020 is what we're looking at. We're actually sped that up just a little bit, and we weren't going to be approving it until about September or October, but instead we did last month.
“The second phase will be the new concourse and the gate areas and will be going out for bids on that as well on that should be completed by about May 2022. They're funded by a, a number of different things. Everything from federal dollars and grants and the PFC which is our passenger finance charge, which is a charge put on every ticket and we were very fortunate last year, that the General Assembly for the first time funded all 72 airports in the state and Wilmington was funded to the tune of almost $12,000,000 in that two year cycle to go towards our airport expansion.”