Melbourne Airport plans $61m terminal expansion to accommodate TUI planes from the UK
Orlando Melbourne International Airport officials have expanded their passenger terminal expansion project into a $61 million venture designed to accommodate an influx of passengers from the UK.
In March, TUI will begin flying around 150,000 visitors from the UK to MLB in the inaugural year of a seven-year contract. This is equivalent to 300,000 passengers arriving and departing at the airport.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Melbourne Airport handled nearly 500,000 passengers in a typical year. TUI therefore represents a considerable boost.
“This investment in our airport is long overdue and will modernize almost every part of our existing terminal and add approximately 80,000 square feet of new space,” airport executive director Greg Donovan said in an email.
TUI will offer two or three daily flights in Boeing 787 Dreamliners – each configured to accommodate 300 to 345 passengers – from Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle.
Melbourne’s passenger terminal dates back to 1989. On Thursday evening, the Melbourne Planning and Zoning Board will consider a site plan for the expansion of the terminal.
Key to the project is a two-story, 63,000 square foot addition housing a new four-lane security checkpoint. The site plan depicts an international baggage claim area, an 8,000 square foot welcome center providing ground transportation access, a new passenger gate and taxiway modifications. The expansion also includes three new jet decks capable of handling jumbo jets.
“I lay up at night thinking about what this terminal is going to be like and how much traffic we are going to have,” Deputy Mayor Tim Thomas said at the Melbourne City Council meeting on Tuesday.
“I mean, it’s really, really exciting,” Thomas said.
City Council unanimously passed a trio of budget-related resolutions for the $61 million terminal expansion project. Some renovations are currently underway and design work began in May on the TUI-centric upgrades, said Mike O’Dell, the airport’s director of finance and administration.
Grants from the Federal Aviation Administration ($20 million) and the Florida Department of Transportation ($11 million) will cover more than half the price, O’Dell said. Airport officials will also use $11 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, $6 million from land sales and $4 million from cash reserves.
The city council authorized a loan of $9 million at 1.95% interest over 10 years to complete the financing of the project.
“Once we have an updated facility, I think it will be easier to attract new air service,” O’Dell told council members.
Melbourne will replace Sanford as TUI’s gateway to Central Florida. The Florida vacation travel conglomerate’s other destination is Miami.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, airport officials estimated that TUI’s annual local economic impact would reach $155 million, as the typical TUI UK tourist:
- Book a nine-night stay.
- Spends $3,241 per visit.
- Has an average household income of $102,183.
Airport officials predicted that 70% of TUI customers would hire vehicles rather than take organized transport.
Melbourne Airports Authority will discuss the terminal expansion project in more detail at its April 28 meeting, airport spokesman Rob Himler said.
“The $61 million project budget does not include local tax money, and instead is made up of funds generated from airport revenues, grants from our FAA and FDOT partners, and ‘a small portion of the debt that will be paid off in a few years,’ Donovan said in an email.
“We are honored to be the gateway to our coastal community. And once the project is complete, it will be something our local travelers and business community, as well as visitors and families moving to the region, will enjoy and be proud of for years to come,” Donovan said.