RDU's continued expansion with the glorious new Terminal Two -- which looks at its best like a 21st-century reboot of Washington-Dulles, at least on the inside, and which has glorious soaring ceilings and public art -- finally gives the region an airport it can be proud of.
Only problem is, of course, that if you're flying the airport's market-leader, you're shunted into Terminal One.
Part 1950s-era brick building, part 1980s-era planned warehouse hustled into passenger use, Terminal One is a Carolina blue mess, and a pain in the butt in many ways. Not least of which, of course, because the connections to the parking deck bring you in amidships on the terminal, at which time you trundle up to the 1955 structure that now houses Southwest Airlines' gates.
In 2012, Terminal One is scheduled to get a double-amputation and renovation, as the current Southwest gates and the 2001 expansion on the airport's south side are demolished and a smaller (and renovated) nine-gate facility takes its place.
But on the retail front, things will get sparser it seems in 2011 before they get better.
A sign on the wall of one of Terminal One's establishments this weekend notes that three food options in the terminal -- Great American Bagel Bakery, A&W Root Beer/Hot Dogs, and the food court -- will be shut down by HMSHost come the wintertime opening of Terminal Two and the move of the remaining mainline carriers Continental and USAirways to the New Two.
Coupled with the previous closure of a second food-court area nearest the no longer used southside gates of Terminal One, and that's actually a pretty big loss of retail choices.
No idea whether any other businesses will go in to the retail spaces abandoned by HMSHost's closures come January, though given that renovations will take place in the airport come 2012, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to go in and upfit a space that's just due for more work.
Interestingly, the TBJ is reporting that the airport itself may take over USAirways' airport club in Terminal One and rent it out to a for-fee operator of such facilities, given that airline's planned departure and what RDU leadership sees as an ongoing demand for respite within the terminal.
Maybe that's a sign the airport knows that many of the remaining food and drink options in Terminal One are already unappetizing enough that, well, it almost makes you want to fly a legacy carrier to get into that shiny Terminal Two. (Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran are the so-called 'low-cost carriers' that'll remain in Terminal One after renovations.)
Until you look at the ticket prices on American, Delta, United and the like. Heck, brown-bagging it isn't so bad, I suppose.
Still, we're curious to see just how RDU phases in the transitions of Terminal One -- will it be a phased renovation, or will they temporarily relocate carriers to Terminal Two while fixing up the old structure?
We'll have to wait and see -- but this traveller's fingers are crossed, so to speak.