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CAE upgrades aim to make travel easier

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Columbia Metropolitan Airport is making two facility upgrades to help improve efficiency for travelers. One project includes upgrading the airport’s baggage check-in system, while another is designed to make it easier to find parking spaces on the second level of the parking deck.

Michael Gula, CAE executive director, said a new inline baggage handling project will move the CTX baggage machines behind the ticket counters. Gula said the work will be done in phases and will take several years to complete.

The inline system is fully automated, whereas the current system includes some TSA manual operators, Gula said.

A new LED lighting system planned for the Columbia Metropolitan Airport will quickly allow travelers to spot open spaces on the second level of the airport garage. (Photo/Renee Sexton)“It’s not required by the TSA,” he said. “We’re doing it because, obviously, we’re seeing a growth potential right now. And if you go out in front of the ticket counters now, it’s crowded. So with those machines going away, it will free up queuing space for passengers, and then we’ll redo all the ticket counters.”

Gula said 2018 was the busiest year the airport has seen in passenger traffic in more than a decade, with an 11% increase from 2017. He said as of Sept. 1, the airport is on track to be up in traffic by 19% for 2019.

Another project the airport is working on is a system that allows drivers to see where open parking spots are on the second level of the airport garage. With the airport’s growth, the second level of the garage, which is preferred by business travelers, is almost always full, Gula said.

The airport is reviewing bids for a parking notification system. Parking spots will have an LED light over them. If the spot is available, the light will be green. If the spot is occupied, the light will be red, allowing drivers to see quickly where the empty parking spots are. 

Gula expects the system to be installed by the end of 2019.

“If we go with a camera-based system, I definitely think it will be done before the end of the year,” he said. “If we go with a sensor-based option, I’ll have to start blocking off aisles, because the contractor can’t install it with vehicles sitting in the spot, so that will take a longer time.”

Gula said the airport is also considering covering the top level of the parking deck and expanding the system to the top floor.

Kim Jamieson, director of marketing and air service for CAE, said the airport constantly tries to improve business travelers’ experience.

“We’re making it easy and efficient for the business traveler,” she said.

Reach Renée Sexton at 803-726-7546.

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