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Kodiak’s main airport terminal to get a face lift, ‘alleviate congestion’ within next few years

Kodiak's Benny Benson State Airport is a short drive from downtown between Buskin Beach and Barometer Mountain.
Kodiak’s Benny Benson Airport on Dec. 27, 2022 after days of storms and canceled flights.

Alaska Airlines plans to spend $60 million to upgrade terminals and expand cargo capacity at rural airports throughout the state. Kodiak’s Benny Benson airport is one of 13 slated for remodeling. Design work is going on behind the scenes right now and physical construction may start later this summer.

On an almost daily basis, cargo planes, passenger flights and U.S. Coast Guard C-130s fly in and out of the state airport in Kodiak.
Alaska Airlines will be upgrading and expanding its terminal building on the island, as well other terminals in the communities of Nome, Kotzebue, Bethel, Utqiagvik, King Salmon, Dillingham, Kodiak and others. Petersburg and Wrangell are part of the project as well, but those communities have already started seeing upgrade work being done at their local airports.

 “A lot of that work won’t be seen by the general public yet. It could be design work that’s being done and paid for, in order to start construction in 2025,” Marilyn Romano, the airlines’ vice president of the Alaska region, explained.

She said the air carrier owns and operates 13 terminals across the state, many of which have been around for decades, and are in need of upgrades. That does not include Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka which all have lease agreements with Alaska Airlines according to Romano.

Kodiak’s Alaska Airlines terminal underwent remodeling eight years ago from 2016 – 2017, but is already experiencing overcrowding due to a lack of space inside the passenger terminal.

“The Kodiak terminal, even when we remodeled it prior to 2020, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We’re trying to operate cargo, we’re trying to operate a passenger terminal, and we have a pretty defined footprint,” Romano said.

To stay within its existing footprint, Romano said Alaska Airlines intends to separate its cargo facility from the terminal building and use that leftover space to accommodate more passengers. Another option the carrier is exploring is adding a second floor to the airport building. Although a final design has not been chosen yet, the airline has leased nearby building space at the local airport where it could potentially relocate its cargo operations. Romano did not say where exactly the company has leased space.

In rural communities like Kodiak, the number of annual airplane passengers is growing. That’s in part due to an increase in capacity after Alaska Airlines phased out its cargo-passenger or combi aircraft in 2017. The newer airplanes now bring in an average of 40% more passengers on each 737-700 plane that lands at the local airport; 72 passengers on combis versus 124 passengers on 737-700s.

Along with larger baggage claim areas, Romano said the upgraded terminals will add more seating and potentially some amenities like Wi-Fi internet connections to make passengers’ airport experience more comfortable.

“But I know that they are feeling that congestion and we want to alleviate that. We want to have an area for people to sit once they go through TSA that’s bigger than what it currently is, and we want it to be a good place for when people are coming to pick people up,” Romano stated.

The design study is currently underway for Alaska Airlines’ terminals in Kodiak and Bethel. Romano said construction will most likely start next year and Kodiak should see its airport terminal upgrades and expansion completed in 2027.

Meanwhile, the local runways and taxiways at the Kodiak airport are about 20 years old, which means the asphalt is deteriorating. Alaska’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to reconstruct the taxiway closest to the terminal building, the apron and Taxiway F, starting this summer. By the end of 2026, DOT plans to have resurfaced and repaired four taxiways and one of the runways at the island’s main airport.

The Alaska DOT’s $70 million project to repair Kodiak’s runways and taxiways is unrelated to Alaska Airlines’ planned upgrades. DOT is slated to begin phase 1 one of their project this summer.