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Airline traffic spurs plans at airport

Dispatch/Argus Photo By John J. Kim

Walter Bailey of Galesburg directs a TWA 727 toward its docking post at the Quad City International Airport.

The airport authority of the Quad City International Airport completed a very busy year in 1997 that sets the stage for an even better year in 1998.

The airport in Moline saw an 11.5 percent increase in the number of passengers boarding airlines in the Quad-Cities during each of the last two years, airport director of aviation Kent George said.

``This sets the stage for the airport authority to implement its long-range plans of expanding the parking lots, a new entrance road, and the review of the passenger flow in the terminal building,'' he said.

More changes are on the horizon, Mr. George said.

``There is a definite need for additional gates, and with the upcoming inaugural service of AccessAir and an increase in service by the existing carriers, the airport authority sees a positive outlook for 1998 and improved air services for the Quad-Cities community and surrounding areas,'' he said.

AirTran began low-cost direct flights from Moline to Orlando, Fla., last spring. The airline tentatively plans to expand its service from Moline to another destination city this year.

A start-up airline, AccessAir, based in Des Moines, is expected to launch its maiden flight in April, pending final approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. AccessAir will provide nonstop or one-stop connections from Moline to major hubs on the East and West coasts.

AccessAir will create 197 jobs in the Quad-Cities when it locates its reservation center in the former Air Wisconsin building. The company also may add up to another 100 jobs when it locates its revenue center, training facility, revenue control and accounting services at the Quad City Airport.

A new $13 million mail-processing center for the U.S. Postal Service opened on airport grounds Sept. 13, 1997. About 235 existing employees moved from downtown Rock Island to the plant, which is about three times larger than their previous quarters. The new center was designed to handle about 1.2 million pieces of mail a day for 88 post offices in the Quad-Cities area.

The airport authority also proceeded with plans to build a new entrance from the Interstate 74-U.S. 6 intersection. Construction on the new entrance is expected to begin this year.

Under those plans, airport parking will be reconfigured and more space added in the vicinity of the former Airport Ramada Inn, which has a date with the wrecking ball this spring. The hotel's contents and fixtures will be sold at auction in June.

Consultants are taking a look at the existing passenger terminal to determine the best floor plan for passengers to access food and gifts, baggage services, and aircraft. The airport authority will get an update on the consultants' findings in March.

Passenger traffic increased in 1997 because of a healthy economy and AirTran's new services, Mr. George said. About 318,992 passengers boarded airplanes in Moline, compared with 285,938 in 1996.

-- By Rita Pearson (February 9, 1998)

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