Designing Lambert as a Regional Gateway

The future of Lambert lies as a regional gateway for flights originating in airports such as Northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Witchita, and Indianapolis. To become an alternate gateway Lambert has to employ design to do a better job capitalizing on its 30+ direct destinations and its manageable size. Removing concourse C provides an opportunity to do just that.
The tornado of  April 22, 2011 rendered Lambert’s concourse C inoperable. In the immediate aftermath Lambert was forced to re-open concourse D, the mothballed terminal for TWA and Ozark Airlines. The airport’s current plan is to use potentially $100 million in insurance money to rebuild Concourse C and then deactivate Concourse D., although rumors abound that Concourse C is now structurally unsound and will have to be demolished, current damage assessments have not confirmed this to be true.  

The demolition of 25-gate Concourse C presents the best opportunity for the fututre of Lambert. Removing Concourse C would eliminate the ongoing congestion problem caused when jets on the North side of Concourse C back up and block the taxiway. (P. 91 in the 1998 FAA Record of Decision) In addition, the confined space between terminals C and D would be opened up to allow greater maneuverability and the use of larger aircraft in the D gates. Although Terminal D currently has only 23 gates (including unused Southwest gates E24-E31) the insurance settlement should be combined with the current $125 million renovation to easily add 4-6 additional gates and needed amenities between gates D14 and D16 and the D and E concourses.

The single greatest reason to reinvest in Concourse D is to reopen the connection between terminals one (west) and two (east). If Lambert is to become a Focus Gateway for the Ozarks and the Great Plains, we have to make interconnection between Southwest and other carriers as seamless as possible.

Concourse D is currently cut off from the Southwest gates in Terminal 2. Southwest currently maintains direct flights to Omaha (OMA), Oklahoma City (OKC) and Tulsa (TUL). The majority of the annual traffic in each of these cities connects via American Airlines through Dallas and Chicago. Simply by reconnecting Southwest with American Airlines in Concourse D, Lambert becomes a plausible connection for flyers travelling such routes as Tulsa to Miami (SW/AA) or Omaha to Washington D.C. (SW/AA) If American Eagle were to add a small number of shuttle flights, Lambert could become a connection point for smaller airports such as Northwest Arkansas (XNA), Des Moines (DSM), Wichita (ICT) or Evansville (EVV) due to our good connections through Southwest and American Airlines.
Allocating the Concourse C insurance payout to Concourse D is not enough. In order to attract connecting passengers with convenience, the entire airside of the airport (Concourses A, B, D, E) must be accessible without leaving security. Airports throughout the country, including Nashville, Indianapolis and Rochester are completing renovation and are joining the 22 domestic airports with entirely interconnected terminals. Interconnecting all terminals at Lambert will increase the number of cross-carrier transfers and greatly improve use of the airport as a transfer point and as a gateway from the meta-region to the rest of the country.

With interconnected terminals St. Louis could become a seamless transfer point for flyers travelling from Omaha to Charlotte (SW/USAir) or Oklahoma City to San Francisco (SW/USAir). With the addition of new shuttle flights the range would increase to include Northwest Arkansas to Salt Lake City (AE/Delta), Wichita to JFK (AE/AA), Evansville to Denver (AE/SW or Frontier), or Indianapolis to LAX (SW/AA).
While not every passenger would choose to fly through St. Louis, Lambert could present a strong alternative to delays and congestion at major hubs. In order to entice more travelers to connect through St. Louis, the appearance and amenities of the terminal will have to be improved. Simply by creating seamless transfers between the four remaining concourses 17 existing restaurants and 15 shops will be accessible to any flyer. Furthermore, the intermingling of passengers from concourse to concourse will form a larger customer base and better support additional retail and food options to the point of legitimating signature retail not currently found in St. Louis.
The emergence of Lambert as a Focus Gateway would stimulate the addition of even more destinations, increase revenue, and have positive effects on the economic climate of the region as a whole. Sadly, Lambert currently appears poised to maintain the status quo at the great expense of reconstructing unneeded space. There is still time to embrace the opportunity presented by the combination of natural disaster and political failure and our region cannot afford to squander this opportunity.
Interested in the future of Lambert International Airport? Join the discussion on the nextSTL Forum.

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  • tpekren

    As a frequent flyer I have a difficult time understanding how connecting the two terminals through concourse D will make this a regional gateway nor do I recall the last time I have gone between airlines who weren’t code share partners or being consolidated, my Contitinental flight today having a United confimation number and sharing gates at Terminal 3 in SFO as an example.  Not to mention that Southwest is already the biggest domestic airline and only getting bigger with Airtran acquistion.  Why in the world will they encourage their customer base use a separate airline to complete their journey.

    In my opinion, Lambert would be much better served if C was rebuilt and efforts were made to interconnect A, B & C with one securicty portal.  Concourse B could be demoolished and rebuilt to incorporate international flights and a common food court shop.   Concourse D should then be demolished and airport right sized.

    The biggest problem I have with keeping D intact is the massive amount of useless tarmac space and thus no means to incorporate a Consolidated Car Rental facility let alone add on site parking that Southwest really wants or provide corridor to re-align the metrolink corridor if your ever want it to west of Lambert.   I 

    Sorry, but I think you are promoting the poorly designed, cheaply built concourse D that was originally built as an add on for Lambert that will do little to generate or create a traffic base that won’t come by flyers tryinig to use two competing airlines.  If anything, Southwest might desire to have more roomwith new gates to their specs by removing Concourse D as they figure out to do with a congested Atlanta. 

  • I think you’ve got a great idea about the future of the airport, but aren’t familiar enough with the airline industry to understand how this would actually work. SW does not interline luggage or do anything else with other carriers – try missing your SW flight and getting rebooked elsewhere. 

    In reality, the only partnerships that may show potential for transfers would be AA/B6, SW/FL. Other than that, everyone has pretty much bought their partners.
    I love the layout and idea for upgrading the airport facilities.  The D gates are a bit small, but widening the concourse would be cheaper and easier than building something completely new. Interconnecting all terminals would be, to this frequent traveler, a massive upgrade. I could walk to my choice of restaurant and not be stuck in the pitiful section my flight happens to be out of.

  • Zun1026

     While this seems to make all too much sense, I would wager there are issues, as brought up by FrankDeGraaf that would stop such things from happening. Business deals and market strategies are likely the biggest obstacles. 

  • FrankDeGraaf

    In the article examples of Lambert as a regional gateway use AE/SW, AE/DL and SW/USAir as possible connections. This proves exactly why this will never happen. American Eagle and AA Connection operated such flights here, connecting with mainline American. They couldn’t make it work (for various reasons). 

    Would American reinstate American Eagle flights here so people can connect with the competition? Of course not. American will continue to route all their regional airplanes to their hubs, to connect to their AA flights. The same goes for any other mainline carrier with hubs and affiliated regional carriers. 

    Unless American makes a complete reversal or another mainline carrier decides to expand their operations here Lambert will not become a regional Gateway in the way the article alleges. Further, the general consensus is that smaller markets will keep losing airlift rather than gain it.

    The article mentions congestion on the taxiway north of  concourse C (FAA Document page 75.) This is no longer an issue. There are now two taxiways. Taxiway C, which is used as push-back area, north of C concourse, and taxiway D, which runs unobstructed east-west along runway 12R-30L. Airplanes push back and then continue east or west. If necessary they side-step to taxiway D.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with removing terminal C, although it’s actually a nicer, wider concourse than D. If the powers that be should decide that’s the way to go, I propose demolishing the aging D as well and build a complete new terminal between terminal 1 and 2. That would be the way to get Lambert into the 21st century.

  • Gary Kreie

    Somewhere in the secure side connections among all the concourses, St. Louis needs a food court and small stores area, which would include a bar or 2.  Minneapolis built out from the main terminal at the junction of the concourses.  Or look at Terminal D in Dallas which uses two levels to create restaurant and shopping space.

  • RobbyD

    That pic with an expanded D Concourse is, from this layperson’s seat, THE way forward for Lambert. Making Lambert an even stronger economic engine for the Saint Louis region is not optional. These ideas should merit serious scrutiny from the powers that be.

  • A very interesting viewpoint!  And, I wasn’t aware of the issue with the C & D concourse issue being the major stumbling block for large planes and a reason for lack of growth.  My perception was that American had a lock on the D gates and wouldn’t release them?  Is this not true?  In any case, I agree that if C is structurally not sound, now is the time to invest in the future and the REGION needs to come together and make this happen!!  WAKE UP MISSOURI & ILLINOIS GOVERNMENT!  This is critical to our economic future 10 – 15 years down the road!