The Executive Director of St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge recently sat down with St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Ian Case to discuss the future of Lambert Field and air travel in the St. Louis area. Their video interview on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website sheds some light on the future of commercial aviation in the St. Louis area.

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First the good news. The passenger count at Lambert Field has rebounded to almost 2019 levels and next year  Hamm-Niebruegge thinks the passenger count will exceed 2019's number of 16 million passengers. The airport projects 2-3 percent passenger growth over the next 20 years.

The current airport with its two terminals, according to Hamm-Niebruegge, was built in 1956, and at this point is becoming outdated. There aren't enough restaurants, the two different terminals make it confusing for out-of-towners visiting St. Louis, and the different security checkpoints and infrastructure just make logistics difficult.

I have a few memories of my Lambert experience on a trip I took to St. Louis several years ago. First, the baggage claim area, as well as where the rental car shuttle dropped us off seemed really dated. Also, it seemed to be a clunky process to get to the car rental area, and the terminals, and navigate the airport. It wasn't a bad experience, it could just be better.

On the plus side, we had a couple of hours to kill before our flight to Dallas, so we enjoyed lunch at one of the restaurants. The place we went to was big on having a variety of Schlafly Beer on tap. The beer and my meal tasted great, and it was a very enjoyable experience. It was just the way to end a great St. Louis trip and ease into a day of travel.

Hamm-Niebruegge says the airport's master plan includes a new single consolidated terminal with more restaurants, and I'd assume retail, which will generate more revenue for the airport. She told Case, airline support for the airport's master plan has been generally positive and that they've been part of the planning process.

When Case asked her how the new terminal would be paid for she explained it's not Missouri or St. Louis taxpayers paying for the terminal. It's airport users. Yaknow, those passenger facility charges we pay when we buy airline tickets. That's where some of the money will come from. As well as money from MoDOT and grants and matching funds from the Federal Government.

I like the idea. I've flown out of a few airports that have a consolidated terminal and they're always a breeze to get in and out of them. It's easy to get through security. Parking isn't overly difficult. It's just an easy experience.

So will a new terminal be a win for The St. Louis Area? I think so. Look, I don't think the current Lambert Field and its two terminals are bad. I don't think they make the City look bad either. But airports are always evolving. It might be time for St. Louis, like Kansas City, to evolve the airport experience for its travelers.

At this point, it looks like there's nothing but blue skies ahead for air travelers in St. Louis.

You can check out Case's complete conversation with Hamm-Niebruegge on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.

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