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More room, more parking for travelers at John Wayne Airport

The airport officially opens its new Terminal C on Monday. The building has six additional gates, a 2,000-space parking structure and the latest security and ticketing technology.

November 12, 2011|By Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Times
  • A view of the baggage carousels in the new Terminal C at John Wayne Airport.
A view of the baggage carousels in the new Terminal C at John Wayne Airport. (Steven Georges / Daily Pilot )

Travelers will have more room to stretch out and more spaces to park in when John Wayne Airport officially opens its new Terminal C on Monday.

Officials this week previewed the building, which has six additional gates, a 2,000-space parking structure and the latest security and ticketing technology.

Originally proposed to meet skyrocketing air travel demand, Terminal C opens amid a tepid market and weak economy. John Wayne operates under its limit of 10.8 million passengers annually, but officials expect traffic to pick back up.

Terminal C is the capstone of $543 million in airport expansion and renovations first approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2004. For the most part, the project has been delivered on time and within budget.

The new terminal continues the same look and feel of the Riley Terminal and other buildings. Architects shaped the roof like the older terminal's recognizable metal fuselage and used mostly the same materials inside.

The Riley Terminal was designed to handle 8.4 million passengers per year, and in 2007, before the recession, it was handling about 10 million. That approached the airport's limit, which is now up for negotiation. Passenger traffic dropped to 8.7 million in 2010.

The recent slump in air travel "brought us a little breathing room," said Airport Director Alan Murphy. Before Terminal C, John Wayne had the highest number of passengers per gate in the nation.

Extra parking was the biggest perk for Matthew Glover, 29, who flies for his graphic design business. The Laguna Beach resident said that before the new parking structure was opened, some lots would be full by 10 a.m.

"That's huge — less stress in travel," Glover said. "It's such an easy airport to begin with, and this makes it easier."

The perks don't matter for some Newport Beach activists, who have fought to limit air traffic over their homes.

"I am overwhelmed at the size of John Wayne Airport," said Evelyn Hart, the former mayor of Newport Beach. "That has to be the absolute maximum of what can go out of there."

The Southern California Assn. of Governments forecasts that by 2035, the demand for air travel in the region will increase by 80%.

Murphy said he realizes that demand will surge in the future, but "we're very aware of our commitment to the community."

mike.reicher@latimes.com

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