The beginning of the 21st Century has produced many significant developments in the history of Philadelphia International Airport. Since 2001, the opening of two new terminals has nearly doubled the size of the Airport complex from 1.4 million to 2.4 million square feet and expanded the number of boarding gates by 95% from 55 to 130. Unprecedented demand for air travel, spurred by low-fare competition, has steadily increased passenger traffic to 31.4 million in 2015.
On June 17, 2001, the Airport ushered in a new era of regional airline service with the opening of Terminal F. The $100 million, 185,000 square-foot terminal offers 38 gates for regional and commuter aircraft and was designed to accommodate 6 million passengers a year. Terminal F is composed of three concourses and was one of the first facilities in the country to use special jet bridges allowing passengers to transition directly from the terminal to commuter aircraft. Terminal F provides passengers flying on regional aircraft with all the amenities of facilities accommodating larger aircraft.
The Terminal F project was complemented by the construction of a new ramp control tower and a 3,400-space parking garage.
In November 2001, PHL marked the opening of a $17 million, 11-story ramp control tower. Situated between Terminals A-East and B, the tower encompasses more than 7,000 square feet of space and features positions for 21 airline ramp controllers, office space and a center to manage airfield operations. Extending 207 feet above the ground, the tower offers improved sightlines and modern technology to enhance the flow of aircraft movement.
In March 2002, PHL unveiled its state-of-the-art Deicing Facility. Located on 35 acres at the western border of the Airport adjacent to Cargo City, the $53 million facility is capable of simultaneously deicing three large jets and four smaller aircraft. High-tech equipment enables the efficient treatment of aircraft in winter weather conditions and provides for the environmentally safe collection and disposal of deicing fluid runoff.
In May 2003, the $20 million expansion of Concourse D and the Terminal D baggage claim was completed. The concourse phase of the project involved modification of the existing concourse, the construction of new loading bridges and the relocation of three existing gate positions, giving the Airport a net gain of four new gates. The upper level of the terminal features enhanced lighting and roomy public space complete with a 650-seat gate area as well as several concessions occupying 1,667 square feet. The lower level expansion of the D Concourse resulted in additional office space.
The 11,000 square foot expansion of the baggage claim consisted of a new 70-foot long baggage carousel, office space and additional public corridor space.
On May 2, 2003, PHL celebrated the opening of magnificent international Terminal A-West. The $550 million terminal is composed of 800,000 square feet spread over four levels. Combined with Terminal A-East, the international terminal complex accommodates nearly 4 million international passengers annually.
Terminal A-West features 13 international boarding gates, more than 50 Bureau of Customs and Immigration inspection positions, 8 high-speed baggage carousels, 60 ticket counter positions, and a uniquely designed Arrivals Hall dominated by an atrium and stunning artwork conveying Philadelphia's identity as America's birthplace.
The Terminal A-West project was complemented by the construction of new Airport entrance ramps from I-95 and 1,500 additional parking spaces.
On September 17, 2003, PHL dedicated its high-tech Aircraft fire Fighting Training Center. The $10 million center, located on the southern boundary of the Airport, enables fire fighters to perform simulation training using the latest technologies. It features a Fuel Spill Trainer and Specialized Aircraft Trainer; a sophisticated computer system that creates a variety of fire scenarios and records performance data; a two-story control and observation building; and classroom facilities.
In May 2004, Southwest Airlines, the nation's No. 1 low-fare carrier, and low-fare carrier Frontier Airlines began service at PHL. To compete with the low-fare airlines, US Airways, the largest airline in Philadelphia, reduced fares on many routes. The proliferation of competitive airfares has resulted in record numbers of travelers using PHL.
In calendar year 2005, PHL for the first time broke into the top 10 busiest airport rankings when it became the 9th busiest airport in the world with 535,666 aircraft operations.
Philadelphia International Airport ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Large Airports” in J.D. Power and Associates 2008 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.
In December 2008, the new Terminal D/E Connector opened featuring a combined 14-lane security checkpoint equipped with state-of-the-art X-ray screening technology, a dozen new food/beverage and retail shops and permanent artwork. The $300 million project also calls for an additional 23 ticket counter positions in two ticketing lobbies, a fan-shaped extension at the end of Concourse E with three new aircraft gates, a 50,000 square foot baggage makeup area with 8 inline Explosive Detection System machines, and a 9,000 square foot D/E bag claim connector with two new carousels. The project is expected to be completed in 2010.
In 2009, the newly extended Runway 17-35 was dedicated. The $70 million project extended the north-south runway by 1,040 feet to 6,540 feet. The added surface will enable larger jets that account for 75% of aircraft operations at PHL to use the runway, thereby alleviating congestion and delays on the Airport's two major runways.