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New airport terminal gets first passengers

Theresa Caverly of Ferndale, Mich., is among the first passengers awaiting a flight out of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport at the new terminal that opened to passengers on Wednesday.

Theresa Caverly of Ferndale, Mich., is among the first passengers awaiting a flight out of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport at the new terminal that opened to passengers on Wednesday.

ALBANY, Ga. -- With three simple words, Ferndale, Mich., resident Theresa Caverly gave the new terminal at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport the blessing officials had been hoping for as the structure moved steadily from concept to reality.

"This is lovely," said Caverly, a contractor who is a frequent flier to Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

photo

Carlton Fletcher

Transportation Security Administration Supervisor Canace Benford awaits the opening of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport’s new $10 million terminal Tuesday.

Caverly and a number of other passengers awaited their scheduled 11:20 a.m. flight to Atlanta Wednesday morning in the comfort of the new $10 million terminal, which welcomed incoming passengers from its first flight shortly after 6 a.m. Airport officials noted no major glitches as they transitioned from the aging McAfee Terminal to the new structure.

"So far, no big problems," Canace Benford, a supervisor with Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration, said. "We took care of the move (Tuesday evening), so we're ready."

Caverly said she was pleased to see "all this glass" in the new terminal.

"This is so inviting, especially when you consider how depressing the old terminal building was," she said. "It had issues; it was so dark and industrial-looking. This really changes the first impression people will get when they fly into Albany. It reminds me of the changes made at the Orlando airport several years ago.

"This is the perfect size terminal for this airport, and I had absolutely no problems getting through security. It's a world of difference since I flew in here a month or so ago."

photo

Carlton Fletcher

Enterprise car-rental representative Miriam Simpson helped staff move from the old terminal to the new Tuesday at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

Frank Nask of Palm Beach, Fla., said his flight Wednesday was the second he'd taken from the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport. He, too, noted the contrast between the new and old terminals.

"This is pretty nice, easy to get through," Nask said. "They could have more concessions, but this is what I would expect from an airport this size."

Airport Director Yvette Aehle, who helped supervise the move from the McAfee Terminal to the new facility until almost 7 p.m. Tuesday before arriving Wednesday at 4 a.m., said she was thrilled to be making the move.

"This is amazing; I'm so happy that we're finally here," she said. "It will probably take us a while to learn the new systems here and adapt to all the new procedures. But this is such a huge day for the airport.

"We're still finalizing a few of the details, and there will be a bit of an inconvenience when we move into Phase 3 (which includes demolition of the McAfee Terminal). We ask our passengers to bear with us while we go through the process. They'll have to walk around the old terminal and mix with traffic until we complete the construction. But I think they'll be pleased with the changes once we're through."

TSA officials and vendors at the airport spent Tuesday evening finishing up their duties in preparation for the final flight into the airport at 8:30 p.m. TSA officials, which provided security check for the final flight out around 6 p.m., immediately started moving their security equipment to the new facility.

"Everything's been pretty seamless," TSA's Jared Babin said. "As soon as the final flight (out) left, we started moving our scanners and other equipment. We'll have to reconfigure some stuff to fit the new facility, but we'll get it in place tonight and come in early tomorrow to make sure everything's ready to go."

Representatives of the Avis and Enterprise car-rental facilities were also going through last-minute details Tuesday evening.

"We're really looking forward to the move," LaShayla Green, an Avis representative, said. "It's a whole new look, a whole new environment, and I think we'll appreciate it as much as our customers."

Miriam Simpson with Enterprise said the change to the new facility will be significant.

"I think people flying into the airport will see a nicer side of Albany," she said. "We're moving from what has become a dark, drab building into a modern new structure with lots of light. I think it will be a lot more fun for those of us who work here and a lot more pleasant experience for our customers."