International flights would depart from Terminal C, the hub
slated to be finished in December 2011.
By Tom Ragan
May 26, 2010
Orange County is breaking out of its insular self as John Wayne Airport
prepares for the possibility of international flights to Mexico and
other destinations in Central America, which would follow in the
contrails of JWA's new once-daily service to Toronto.
began Tuesday on a walkway that will connect the airport's Terminal B
to Terminal C, the future 280,000-square-foot facility featuring six new
gates, which will go along with new international flights, said Jenny
Wedge, the airport's spokeswoman.
Facilities for U.S. Immigration
and Customs Enforcement will also be built, possibly turning John Wayne
Airport into John Wayne "International" Airport. Technically speaking,
however, the airport needs 15,000 international passengers a year and
more than 2,000 international arrivals annually to be designated as such
by the federal government.
"Right now, we have no plans to
change the name," said Wedge, adding that the $540 million in
improvements is expected to accommodate 10.8 million passengers between
January 2011 and December 2015, according to a re-negotiated agreement
between Orange County and the city of Newport Beach.
improvements, she said, will be completed by December 2011. They started
in July 2009. The new terminal itself will cost $195.9 million.
facilities to be added include a parking structure, three baggage
carousels, food and beverage and news and gift concessions stands, along
with the expected screening, security and checkpoints for international
If no airline companies are interested in providing
international flights, Wedge said, Terminal C can always be used for the
overflow of passengers already occurring in Terminals A and B.
gets cramped in there right now," she said, adding that last year's
total passengers came to 8.7 million, nearly 300,000 above the limit
that was set in 1985 under the original agreement struck between Newport
Beach and the airport.
At least $180 million of the improvements
will be paid for by Passenger Facility Charge Revenues. That is, $4.50
per passenger is set aside to help fund major infrastructure development
at airports across the country, the result of a law enacted by Congress
To some residents, however, the so-called improvements
are merely an "expansion" by the airport, and should be considered such,
said Ron Darling, a former member of the Airport Working Group of
"They love to play with the words and say it's
just an 'improvement,' but it's really an expansion," Darling said.
"People just don't understand. The problem is, it's the 29th busiest
airport in the world and planes fly over hundreds of houses."
said the airport property "is a tiny piece of property the size of a
According to Wedge, the airport is 44th busiest
airport in the country in terms of its total number of passengers.
for the 5,700-foot runway that sits parallel to the new Terminal C, it
can only accommodate flights of five hours or less, Wedge said, adding
that no bigger commercial jets will be brought into the fold.
issue of noise, however, has been a source of constant complaints from
hundreds of residents who live directly under the path of flights from
the airport. JWA operates on 503 acres in what technically is
unincorporated Orange County.
She said the airport tries to do
everything within its ability to limit the noise from the jet engines by
making sure all aircraft abide by several monitors installed to keep
the noise to a minimum.