June 2017 was the busiest June on record at the Gerald R. Ford International (GFIA) Airport, coming off a March that was the single busiest month in airport history.
June 2017 passengers were up 5.59 percent year-over-year, not only resulting in the busiest June ever, but also securing the title of busiest second quarter in airport history by over 30,000 passengers; and the busiest overall quarter ever serving over 700,452 passengers since the beginning of the year.
“We are halfway through 2017 and already seeing incredible record-breaking statistics,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “This is a testament to our region, and our growing community along with our airline partnerships. Not only does this June go down in airport history, but 2017 now holds the title for busiest first half ever beating out 2016 by over 86,000 passengers.”
Each month of 2017 has resulted in record-breaking passenger numbers, and the Airport has seen ten straight months of record growth.
Through June 2017, GFIA has served 1,385,730 total passengers — up 6.6 percent from 2016.
“The first phase of our Gateway Transformation Project will be complete at the end of summer, and we’re excited to see what the combination of this redesign along with the growing business in West Michigan does for our numbers,” said Gill. “We hope our continued growth prompts more nonstop service, and more options for those travelers who keep supporting us to achieve these record- breaking stats.”
Gateway Transformation Project construction began in December 2015 and is slated to continue through summer 2017. The project’s main feature is the consolidated passenger security checkpoint which opened in June, and centralizes security screening to one main checkpoint in the Airport. Construction also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, kids play areas, restroom and nursing room, family restrooms, pre- and post-security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more.
For the first time in its history, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) will be a venue for ArtPrize.
GFIA has been a sponsor and welcoming point for artists and visitors for several years, and decided to sign on as a venue for the 9th annual art competition, given the connection to the community. Seven artists will have art displayed at the Airport, which includes both indoor and outdoor work.
“We are thrilled to be a part of ArtPrize in more ways than one, and serving as a venue will not only give visitors a first impression of our city; but it will hopefully bring in those from around West Michigan into the airport to see the art and check out our newest facilities,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “The Ford Airport strives to be reflective of the people and events in West Michigan, and what better opportunity is there to do so other than partner with ArtPrize? We look forward to welcoming in both local and international artists, and look forward to seeing their talents on display.”
ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition which takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids. More than five hundred thousand dollars in prizes are awarded each year, which include a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts.
Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate. Art is exhibited throughout downtown Grand Rapids—museums, bars, public parks, restaurants, theaters, hotels, bridges, and for the first time – the Airport. Over eight years, 2.9 million visitors have cast 3.2 million votes and artists from around the country and world have received $4.1 million in awards.
“In addition to their stunning renovations, we are excited to expand the ArtPrize boundaries to include The Gerald R. Ford International Airport allowing visitors from all over the world to experience — an vote for — the work of ArtPrize Artist on their first and last stop in West Michigan,” said ArtPrize Executive Director Christian Gaines.
By Tara Hernandez, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
All passengers traveling through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) are now being processed in one consolidated security checkpoint, the focal point of GFIA’s Gateway Transformation Project. Construction on the checkpoint was completed Saturday evening, and opened for passengers on Sunday, June 25. Concourse B passengers were processed through the area starting on Sunday, June 4th, but now both Concourse A & B passengers are being screened at the new checkpoint.
The checkpoint is one part of the Airport’s $45 million Gateway Transformation Project that also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, new restrooms & nursing rooms, family restrooms, pre- and post-security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more. Different portions of the construction will open throughout the summer with phase one set to be complete in late August. Construction on the Gateway Transformation Project began in December 2015.
“We could not have asked for a smoother transition bringing all of our passengers together in our new consolidated checkpoint,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “We have to thank our engineering staff for their tireless efforts, and our partners at the TSA for assisting in this transition. It really is a collaborative effort to pull off projects like this, and we’re already hearing from our passengers about how much they appreciate the new space.”
The new consolidated security checkpoint allocates TSA screening in one central location to fully utilize staffing, and make screening lines faster and more efficient.
A post-security Starbucks is set to open Friday, June 30, along with a redesigned Kids Play Area in the pre-security area.
Because some of the construction will have an impact on passenger operations throughout the terminal building, there will be updates, maps, photos, and other helpful tips listed on GFIA’s website: www.grr.org/construction. Signs and airport ambassadors are also available in the terminal building to assist with any passenger needs or directions.
Passengers are still encouraged to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their scheduled flight due to high volumes of traffic with the busy summer and holiday weekend ahead.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s celebrated the $1.1 million renovation of its viewing area with a grand opening May 31 where a big crowd heard about the commitment of the airport management — including to making the facility as safe as it is scenic — and the involvement of community donors to the park.
But, like the visceral thrill of watching a big jet airplane take off or land, the new facility will be viewed in very personal terms by two very different people.
Jennifer Zirkle will always see the park as the place where her autistic son James really began to interact with the world. And David Bottrall, whose family foundation made a substantial contribution to the Cascade Community Foundation’s fundraising effort for the project, will always see the park — and its restroom facilities — as a grand memory of his father.
Zirkle, who spoke to the crowd and then to WKTV after the event, said viewing airport activities from the old park was a “life-changing” moment in her son’s life.
“My son was diagnosed with autism at 2-1/2, he is now six. At three he still had no words,” she said. “In July of 2014, he was 3-1/2 and we came to drop my mother off at the airport for a vacation, we ended up coming out here and he just got so excited, seeing the airplanes, he wanted to come back.
“When we did, he said ‘airplanes’ and I said ‘Oh my gosh, he just said something.’ It has been absolutely amazing that the airplanes, watching them, has actually brought him out. … It sparked something in his little brain that said ‘It is its for me to express myself.’ That was a big catalyst for him. He wanted to share, he wanted to learn more. It brought him out into the world.”
A father and son moment
Bottrall, with his mother Joyce S. Wisner, was present at the park opening representing the Tassell Wisner Bottrall Foundation, a major contributor to the park project. However, he will likely always view the park as a special place, a special moment spent with his deceased father, Thomas Wisner
“My father, Thom Wisner, was fascinated with the subject (of aviation), he had a lifelong desire to learn to fly helicopters,” Bottrall said. “It was a dream he was not able to check off his bucket list, before he died of pancreatic cancer 2-1/2 years ago.
“But shortly before he passed away, he sat under a tent during a fundraising status event for this park an out of the blue, spontaneously, he gave another gift to this project. This time for the restrooms. He so badly wanted to see this park built, he knew how much fun it is to just sit here. I also think he knew that these restrooms would make him the most popular person in the park several times a day.”
Safety and security in design
With the park offering one of the closest view of a major airport runways in the country, it will also offer new visitors the ability to have their own personal stories associated with the park.
And while airport CEO Jim Gill is proud of the new facility and its ability to give viewers outstanding visual access, he also is proud of the safety and security measures that were a key part of the design by Mathison & Mathison Architects.
“This location opened in 1995 and it has been a favorite among folks in the community and aviation enthusiasts. … We hope we can continue to be part of creating memories,” Gill said. “Interesting fact, the viewing park you are sitting at not is actually the closest viewing park to any active commercial runway in the united states.”
But, Gill told WKTV. “At the airport, our number one goal is always safety and security. If we are not safe and secure, we are not much of anything else.”
The renovation of the park started in 2016, and it not only brings a covered viewing facility and restrooms to the location but increases the parking available from 56 to 104 spaces, and adds space for four buses.
“This is all because of the efforts of our partners (in the project), who we could not have done without, the Cascade Community Foundation, we want to thank you for your fundraising efforts and your continuing efforts. … and also airport board.”
Beginning on Sunday, June 11 at 4:30 am, passengers traveling through Concourse B were screened in the new consolidated security checkpoint. Concourse B passengers include those flying American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
Concourse A passengers that include Delta Air Lines and Allegiant Air, will start to be screened at the new checkpoint on the morning of June 25.
The checkpoint is one part of the Airport’s $45 million Gateway Transformation Project that also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, new restrooms & nursing rooms, family restrooms, pre and post security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more. Different portions of the construction will open throughout the summer with phase one set to be complete in late August. Construction on the Gateway Transformation Project began in December 2015.
“Safety and security are our first priority and as we unveil one portion of our Gateway Transformation Project, we are working closely with our all of our tenants, contractors, and staff to ensure a smooth transition,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “Once completed, this project will be a beautiful gateway to West Michigan offering more amenities, technology, and other options for both our business and leisure travelers.”
Touch of Grand Rapids post-security marketplace is also set to open on Sunday, and renovations are also wrapping up on a pre-security marketplace Destination Michigan which is expected to open on Friday, June 9. Both gift shops will include snacks and beverages as well as Michigan made gifts, souvenirs, and clothing.
Because some of the construction will have an impact on passenger operations throughout the terminal building, there will be updates, maps, photos, and other helpful tips listed on the airport’s website. Signage, maps, and airport ambassadors are also available in the terminal building to assist with any passenger needs or directions. Passengers are encouraged to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their scheduled flight.
In his role at GFIA, Johnson has assisted the CEO in managing the day-to-day operations of the airport and directing airport activities. Johnson has also played a key role in assisting the airport in air service needs such as the addition of Southwest Airlines in 2013, and Allegiant Air in 2009, among others.
“Phil has been a valuable asset to our airport for more than two decades and we are thankful for his service,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “He leaves behind a legacy of always working diligently to make our Airport the best it could be. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Johnson has held a number of aviation related positions prior to beginning his airport management career in 1989. Among these are Systems Engineer for Hughes Aircraft Company — designing air defense and air traffic control systems; Air Traffic Control Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — controlling air traffic at Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center; and Manager, Aircraft Ground Services for National Air Enterprises — managing aircraft line service functions at a Fixed Base Operator (FBO).
In addition, Johnson is an Accredited Airport Executive with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). He also holds professional affiliations with the Great Lakes Chapter of AAAE (GL-AAAE) and the Michigan Association of Airport Executives (MAAE).
“I have so many wonderful memories in my 22 years at the Ford Airport, and I feel blessed to call Grand Rapids home,” said Johnson. “It was a pleasure working with all of my coworkers over the years, and I look forward to seeing the continued growth and development within the Airport Authority.”
Johnson holds a Master of Science degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California, a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Azusa Pacific University, and an Associate of Science degree in Air Traffic Management from Mount San Antonio College.
As a part of Wish Ball-West Michigan, Make-A-Wish Michigan recognizes three honorees: an Individual Honoree, a Corporate Partner Honoree, and a Community Partner Honoree. Each honoree is selected based on the impact they have on the organization’s ability to grant wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening medical conditions.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport was selected as the 2017 Community Partner Honoree because of its game-changing impact on the Make-A-Wish Michigan mission, as well as the Airport’s commitment to creating special experiences for wish kids and families as they leave for their wish journeys. GFIA also played a vital role in the enhancement of one such recipient, young Anthony, whose wish to become a pilot was the 9,000th wish granted by Make-A-Wish® Michigan. Anthony was also surprised at the ball as Grand Rapids Station Manager for Southwest Nate Tenbrink told the youngster that Southwest would be flying him to Dallas to experience the Flight Operations Center; he will also get to ride in a 737 simulator.
“What a tremendous honor to be recognized by Make-A-Wish Michigan among all of the wonderful partners in the community,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “We are proud to work with Make-A-Wish to make wishes come true, and to send the families off with a stress-free experience and a break from their times at medical appointments and hospital visits.”
Make-A-Wish Michigan has sent hundreds of kids and their families through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and 75-percent of wishes involve travel.
“The Gerald R. Ford International Airport … go[es] out of their way to provide special send offs and enhancements to our wish kids,” said Karen Davis, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Michigan. “This year’s Wish Ball theme was ‘Let Your Dreams Take Flight’, which is exactly what special friends like the Gerald R. Ford International Airport allow our wish children to do.”
With the help of generous donors and 40,000 volunteers worldwide, Make-A-Wish has collectively granted more than 415,000 wishes worldwide, making it the world’s largest wish-granting organization. For more information on Make-A-Wish Michigan, visit www.michigan.wish.org.
A familiar face has returned to the City of Wyoming this month as Megan Sall stepped into the role of assistant city manager.
In her new role, Sall will serve as the city manager’s principal representative in various administrative affairs with an emphasis on economic development and downtown development. She will also serve as communication director and will be responsible for managing the City’s website, social media platforms and media inquiries. She will also be responsible for directing and monitoring city projects, acting as liaison between the city manager and department heads, community groups, boards and designated government agencies.
“We are excited to have Megan back at the City in this new and expanded role,” said Wyoming City Manger Curtis Holt. “She brings a passion for municipal work, community engagement and the City of Wyoming, along with a strong understanding of who we are.
Megan’s past work with us, along with the expertise and skills she has developed in the interim, will allow her to be a tremendous asset to our continued growth and development.”
Sall comes to the city with experience in economic development and governance in both local and national organizations. She began her career as assistant to the city manager in Wyoming before moving on to work as downtown development authority director and community services coordinator.
Sall then took the role of campaign coordinator and legislative aide for regional political and governing figures and went on to become program manager at International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C. Returning to Grand Rapids, Sall worked as business development manager for The Right Place and then project and engagement manager at CQL Incorporated.
Sall received her bachelor’s degree in international relations and her masters in public administration from Grand Valley State University.
Sall is an active community member, serving on the board of Grand Valley State University. She also mentors at the Cook Leadership Academy at Grand Valley State University and has worked on the planning committee for the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference and as a cabinet member of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Gateway Transformation Campaign.
March 2017 was the single busiest month in Gerald R. Ford International (GFIA) Airport history. The month’s passenger numbers were up 11.17 percent year-over-year, resulting in the busiest March ever, the busiest first quarter ever and breaking an all-time monthly record from July 2016.
“To have a record-breaker like this is incredible,” said GFIA Authority President and CEO Jim Gill. “Not only does it go down as the busiest month in Gerald R. Ford International Airport history, but to do it by over 10 percent is just tremendous.”
July 2016 was previously the business month in GFIA history with 238,237 total passengers. In March 2017, 256,880 total passengers traveled through GFIA — breaking the previous record by 7.83 percent.
Each month of 2017 has resulted in record-breaking passenger numbers, also equating to GFIA recording its busiest first quarter in history. Through March 2017, GFIA has served 685,278 passengers — up by almost 9 percent from 2016.
“As we continue to grow in traffic it is imperative that our facilities keep up with our passenger demand,” said Gill. “We will continue to do our part to improve our amenities, technology, customer service and infrastructure. We are excited to see what the future holds, and we only expect more growth in the years to come.”
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) is preparing for its busiest time of year with helpful travel reminders, and a bit of fun mixed in.
Due to additional passenger volume beginning this month and continuing through April, parking lot demands will be greater, and airport facilities are expected to be busy. GFIA is also under construction for the Gateway Transformation Project, which affects areas of passenger screening and the terminal Grand Hall. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects longer security lines.
In order to expedite the security screening process, passengers should carefully consider the contents of their checked luggage and carry-on bags. The TSA recommends wearing shoes that are easy to remove, having identification and boarding passes ready to present at security checkpoints, removing all items from pockets, avoiding bedazzled and jeweled clothing, limiting heavy jewelry, and ending all cell phone conversations prior to screening. In addition, removing heavy food items such as cheese and fudge, along with granular and powdered items like sugar, from your carry-on bag, will also greatly speed up security screening.
“We are looking forward to another Spring Break season, which is our busiest time of the year. Because of that, it is important for those traveling – especially if you haven’t flown recently – to review TSA’s website,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “Our TSA staff does a wonderful job, and the more prepared travelers are, the smoother the screening experience will be for everyone.”
Passengers traveling through GFIA on select Spring Break travel dates will be treated to the annual Passenger Appreciation Days, compliments of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority Board. This bon-voyage celebration will take place from Thursday, Macy 30 – April 1 from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. in the Airport’s Grand Hall Meet & Greet area. Passenger Appreciation Days events include free refreshments, food, giveaways, prize drawings, contests, and more.
“Our Spring Break travelers who return year after year know how much fun you can have prior to your vacation with our Passenger Appreciation Days,” said Gill. “This is one of the ways we are thanking our community for supporting our airport, and our passengers will have some fun before heading out on their trips.”
For passengers wanting to partake in the Passenger Appreciation Days festivities, the Airport encourages them to allow even more travel time.
The TSA also encourages passengers to utilize the 3-1-1 rule with liquids, gels and aerosols. Put all liquids in 3.4 ounce containers and place them in a clear, plastic one-quart zip-top bag.
Suntan & Sun Block Lotion: Lotions fall under the 3-1-1 procedures mentioned above. As well as the aerosol spray lotions. Sunblock sticks do not fall under this rule.
Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc. should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.
Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your other favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz. or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the 3-1-1 baggie.
Sporting Goods: Golf clubs, tennis rackets, baseball bats (including the mini slugger bats), cricket bats, lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows, hockey sticks, scuba knives, spear guns, etc. are all prohibited from being carried onto the plane. However, you can have them checked as luggage.
Questions about TSA procedures and upcoming travel can be addressed to the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or @AskTSA on Twitter.
By Leonard Schneider, American Council of Engineering Companies
Prein & Newhof of Grand Rapids, Mich., has earned a National Recognition Award for exemplary engineering achievement in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC) 50th annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) for designing drainage and treatment system improvements at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.
ACEC is the Washington-D.C.-based business association of the engineering industry representing more than 5,000 independent engineering firms throughout the United States.
The $20 million system is designed to eliminate environmental risks from aircraft deicing operations during the winter months. Stormwater from the airport’s north detention basin has been re-routed to a new outfall at the Thornapple River, while the west apron stormwater system was reconfigured to consolidate runoff from all major existing and future aircraft deicing areas.
In addition, the treatment system enhances the quality of the natural environment with an innovative design for collecting and treating propylene glycol, and managing stormwater. The green design uses gravity, vegetated beds, and natural organisms to treat the stormwater with essentially no power consumption or residual waste.
The project is among 162 engineering achievements from throughout the nation and the world being recognized by ACEC as the year’s finest examples of engineering excellence, and eligible for additional top national honors. Judging for the awards program — known industry-wide as the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry” — took place in February, conducted by a national 30-member panel of built environment leaders, along with experts from government, the media and academia. Award criteria focuses on uniqueness and originality, technical innovation, social and economic value, and generating excitement for the engineering profession.
Recognition of all award winners including top commendations — 20 Honor Awards, 16 Grand Awards and the prestigious “Grand Conceptor Award” for the year’s most outstanding overall engineering achievement — will take place at the annual EEA Dinner and Gala, a black-tie event to be held Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) is the business association of America’s engineering industry, representing more than 5,000 independent engineering firms and more than 500,000 professionals throughout the United States engaged in the development of America’s transportation, water and energy infrastructure, along with environmental, industrial and other public and private facilities. Founded in 1909 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., ACEC is a national federation of 51 state and regional organizations.
In 2016, 2,653,630 passengers flew in and out of GFIA, an increase of 4.06% from 2015. December growth helped cap the record-setting year with an increase of 6.53% year-over-year. December 2015 saw 202,769 total passengers, but 2016 surpassed that with 216,017 enplaned and deplaned passengers. Passenger growth was recorded in 9 of the 12 months of 2016 at GFIA.
The growth over the last few years started in 2013 with a passenger record of 2,237,979. In 2014, that number jumped to 2,335,105. In 2015, GFIA broke its own record once again with a passenger total record of 2,550,193 — a 9.21% year-over-year increase. Over the past four years, the Airport has recorded its strongest growth in its 53-year history, serving over 9.7 million passengers over the four-year time period.
“This is a testament to the growing West Michigan community, and the investment our airline partners have made at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill.
“This growth further justifies the need for our Gateway Transformation Project to accommodate the increasing passenger demand, and the need our airlines have in-gate space, amenities, and customer service offerings.”
July 2016 was the single busiest month in Airport history with 238,237 total passengers traveling through GFIA resulting in the busiest July ever, and breaking an all-time monthly record from July 2015.
The Gateway Transformation Project began in December 2015 and is slated to continue through summer 2017. The project’s main feature is the consolidated passenger security checkpoint which will centralize and combine security screening to one main checkpoint in the Airport, eliminating separate screening for passengers traveling through either Concourse A or B. Construction also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, restroom & nursing rooms, family restrooms, pre- and post-security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space and much more.
“As we continue to grow in traffic it is imperative that our facilities keep up with our passenger demand,” said Gill. “There is a reason our passengers keep coming back, and as they do we will continue to do our part to improve our amenities, technology, customer service and infrastructure. We are excited to see what the future holds, and we only expect more growth in the years to come.”
The Airport will be celebrating this historic passenger record with daily surprises and giveaways by ‘paying it forward’ to passengers through next week.
GFIA monthly passenger statistics are available on the website.
Travelers out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport will be able to get a final taste of Beer City, U.S.A., in 2017 as Prospect Hill Brewhouse, a new eatery featuring Founders brews, will be opening as part of an expansion and upgrade of airport amenities.
The brewhouse will be located in the post-security area of the airport. The addition is part of a series of additions including two new Starbucks — one pre-security and one post-security, a restaurant called The Local @ GRR on Concourse and an as-yet unnamed casual dining restaurant on Concourse B, according to supplied material. A Burger Federation restaurant along with a Firehouse Subs is also planned.
“We are excited to have a local flair in our restaurant scene, and what better way to own up to our title of Beer City, U.S.A. than adding the Prospect Hill Brewhouse right here in the airport?” Phil Johnson, airport acting president & CEO, said in supplied material.
Prospect Hill Brewhouse is set to open in summer 2017, with the other additions occurring soon after. There will also be retail offering changes including a Touch of Grand Rapids store featuring West Michigan themed products and in partnership with the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Marketing and Communications Direction, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Nonstop service from the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) will begin in Grand Rapids in April of next year.
American Airlines announced the service today, which will be operated by American Eagle. The service begins on April 4, 2017 – just in time for Spring Break – and will feature 12 weekly round trips. Tickets already are on sale.
“Nonstop service to Reagan National Airport has been a target market of ours, and we are happy to have this route added for both our leisure and business travelers headed to the Washington, D.C. area,” said Gerald R. Ford International Airport Interim President & CEO Phil Johnson. “We are confident that our West Michigan community will support this service as we continue to expand our route map with American Airlines.”
The flight schedule for the new service includes departure times from Grand Rapids twice daily at 7:20 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and one daily departure at 9:40 a.m. on Saturdays. Service departing DCA and returning to GRR is twice daily at 10:00 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Sunday through Friday, with a 4:00 p.m. daily departure time on Saturdays.
American Airlines has served Gerald R. Ford International Airport passengers for more than 25 years, and also has nonstop service to Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Charlotte, and Philadelphia.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority Board announced today that James “Jim” Gill has been hired as its new President & CEO.
Gill, who comes to Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) from Allegheny County Airport Authority in Pittsburgh, was selected as the finalist for the position by a search committee.
The Airport Authority Board voted unanimously to hire Gill at today’s board meeting.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jim to West Michigan, and we know he will thrive as the next CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport,” said GFIA Board Chairman Roger Morgan. “Jim has a track record of strong leadership, community partnerships, and he is well known and well respected among his peers in the aviation industry. Jim will continue to spark our growth as we invest in customer service, technology and construction projects, and serve as a catalyst for West Michigan’s economic progress.”
Gill is an industry veteran with more than two decades of senior airport management experience. With deep roots in the Pittsburgh area, he has served 13 years of that time at the Allegheny County Airport Authority, whose two airports serve more than 8 million passengers per year. There he has been CFO since 2007, and added the COO position to his duties in 2015. He has also previously served as Interim Executive Director. Gill also spent six years at Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority as Deputy Airport Director & CFO.
Gill is an Accredited Airport Executive with the American Association of Airport Executives and an International Airport Professional through Airports Council International, one of a very select group of airport professionals to hold both credentials.
Gill has many successes in his career including personally overseeing the operation of Pittsburgh International Airport transfer from county control to a new independent airport authority, which was a multi-year, complex process requiring significant operational knowledge and dynamic collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including the FAA which must ultimately approve the transfer. Moreover, while serving in the capacity as Interim Executive Director at Pittsburgh, Gill facilitated an agreement to have Allegiant Air begin point-to-point service there as the airline’s first medium hub, a successful operation which has grown from five destinations in 2014 to eleven destinations today.
“I am delighted to be joining the talented team at GFIA and I look forward to moving forward together,” said Gill. “An airport is so often the first and last impression that travelers have of the community and region, and so one must be committed to delivering outstanding operational performance while exceeding customer service expectations. I know we will continue to have an outstanding record of success in West Michigan, and I am excited to help lead the airport into a new, expansive era while working closely with the Authority Board, airport management, staff, and our community and business partners.”
Among the Airport’s future plans is a current Gateway Transformation Project, which is set to complete Phase One in summer 2017. Additionally, the Airport Viewing Park is set to open in the spring, and GFIA is on pace to break another passenger record for 2016. Airport leadership is also underway in updating the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Master Plan.
“One of the things that attracted me to this job is the excitement surrounding the growth of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport,” said Gill. “I am really looking forward to seeing all of these projects come to fruition, and to be the leader that helps drive even more growth and development in the future.”
The search committee was headed by GFIA Board Member Floyd Wilson, and Board Chairman Roger Morgan. Steven Baldwin & Associates – an Airport Management Consulting firm based out of Albany, New York – assisted in the recruiting process
“Jim has significant business and economic development experience,” said Wilson. “That is a perfect fit for the direction the board has envisioned for the new Authority.”
GFIA, which was named the top airport of its size in the region in 2015 by Airports Council International (ACI), welcomed a record 2.5 million passengers last year.
Gill will officially start work at the airport on January 9, 2017. He replaces Brian Ryks, who resigned in March to accept a position as CEO of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Over the years the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) Viewing Park — at 4820 Kraft Avenue SE, just north of 52nd — has become a popular spot for area workers to take a lunch break or for families to pack a picnic and enjoy a free afternoon spotting planes. The park is like catnip to aviation enthusiasts and photographers. And in July 2015, Grand Rapids Kids Magazine voted the park the “Best Kept Secret in Grand Rapids”.
As its popularity has grown, so has the need for an updated facility. Now the Airport Viewing Park is getting a makeover.
GFIA, in partnership with the Cascade Community Foundation (CCF), broke ground Oct. 24 on the Airport Viewing Park Project, a $1.12 million renovation that will add a pavilion, permanent restrooms, new seating areas, expanded parking spaces and more.
“We have heard over the years how enjoyable this viewing park is to our community, and we are happy to invest in our Airport Viewing Park to make it even better for future generations,” said GFIA Acting President & CEO Phil Johnson.
The Airport contributed $675,000 to the project, with the balance funded through CCF’s “Community is Our Middle Name” Capital Campaign.
“We are grateful for the community support that was essential to the success of the Cascade Community Foundations ‘Community is our Middle Name’ campaign,” said campaign co-chair Sheila VanZile. “The project couldn’t have happened without the significant support of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and their amazing team.”
After construction is completed, parking spaces will nearly double from 57 current spaces to 102 in the renovated lot. Additionally, there will be four bus parking spaces to accommodate school and tour groups. Guests will have more than double the seating of the old park with new picnic tables and benches, and a permanent restroom, new signage and more trash receptacles are being added.
Mathison & Mathison Architects designed the new Viewing Park, and contractor Owen Ames Kimball is the construction team.
The Airport Viewing Park should remain open during construction, but parking will be limited and – should closings occur – they will be posted via the Airport’s social media accounts. More photos and information on the project can be found here.
July 2016 was the single busiest month in Gerald R. Ford International (GFIA) Airport history.
July passenger numbers were up 1.69% year-over-year; resulting in the busiest July ever, and breaking an all-time monthly record from July 2015.
“Month after month our numbers are increasing, and we could not be more thrilled by the support from our area passengers,” said Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority (GFIAA) Acting President & CEO Phil Johnson.
July 2015 was previously the busiest month in GFIA history with 234,282 total passengers. In July 2016, 238,237 total passengers traveled through GFIA.
The Airport is on pace to break its annual passenger total, already 3.24% ahead of passenger totals from 2015. Through July 2016, GFIA has served 1,537,465 passengers.
“Our airline partners recognize this growth, and we are always working with them to add seats and flights to both existing and new destinations,” said Johnson. “These numbers also further justify the need for our Gateway Transformation Project, and the importance of our facilities keeping on pace with the passenger demand. Our investment in this project represents our commitment to improve amenities, infrastructure, technology, and customer service from our growing passenger base.”
Gateway Transformation Project construction began in December 2015 and is slated to continue through summer 2017. The project’s main feature is the consolidated passenger security checkpoint which will centralize and combine security screening to one main checkpoint in the Airport, eliminating separate screening for passengers traveling through either Concourse A or B. Construction also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, restroom & lactation stations, family restrooms, pre and post security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more.
Expanded parking in a repaved lot is now available at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA).
The North Lot, located just north of the airport parking garage, has reopened to the public after a two and a half month closure that included the area being reconstructed and expanded with more than 100 new parking spaces. The project also added a covered entry canopy over the main lot entrance off of Gateway Drive. The entry canopy matches the architecture of the economy lot canopies, and will protect passengers from weather elements as they pull tickets to enter the parking lot.
Another noticeable new feature is the ability for visitors to transition directly from the parking garage to the North Lot. Previously, if guests had to exit the parking garage they had to go around the building.
“We are all about making things easier, safer, and more efficient for our passengers,” said Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority Acting President & CEO Phil Johnson. “The new lot also had minimal environmental impacts as our crews reused all of the existing pavement and aggregate base so no parking surface materials were removed from the site.”
The lot was closed in June to undergo a resurfacing treatment and included more than 9,200 tons of asphalt, an improved layout with new signs and paint directing passengers to the terminal, 25,000 square feet of sidewalk to improve pedestrian safety, the addition of emergency call boxes, and 60 energy efficient LED lights for nighttime safety.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority (GFIAA) is officially operating. The Authority transition was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Friday, July 1, with support from Kent County Commissioners and government officials.
For 60 years, Kent County owned and operated the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, through its Department of Aeronautics, with major policy matters decided by the Kent County Board of Commissioners through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Board. The transition to an Airport Authority will transfer governance to a regional Airport Authority Board, appointed by the County Board of Commissioners.
“This is a historical day for our region, our County, and our Airport,” said Roger Morgan, GFIAA Board Chairman and Kent County Commissioner. “The transfer to an Authority has been a goal of our Board’s for several years, and to see the teamwork, the collaboration of organizations, and the FAA’s support has been truly remarkable. We had a smooth process along the way, and we are grateful to each and every person who assisted us in this transition.”
The transfer to an Authority creates an independent governing enterprise whose sole purpose is the future development of the Airport, greater levels of economic development and proactive commercial revenue development, a stronger regional focus to respond to air service needs, and a more entrepreneurial, business, and hospitality management focus – driven by customer service.
The Authority Legislation was signed by Governor Rick Snyder on June 30, 2015, the Kent County Board of Commissioners formed the Regional Authority and adopted the Articles of Incorporation on August 27, 2015, and Kent County and the Authority signed final operating and lease agreements on December 17, 2015. The final approval of the Authority came from the FAA, which granted and signed the Authority’s operating certificate today.
The transition came about with full support from the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
“Kent County prides itself on making decisions that are best for the entire community,” said Jim Saalfeld, Chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. “The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is a regional asset for all of West Michigan. In that regard, the County knows the best long-term move for the Airport is to be operated by a regional authority that includes representation from outside of the County. This is another great example of collaboration by Kent County at many levels.”
“Kent County Commissioner Dan Koorndyk was instrumental in this transition, and we sincerely appreciate all of his support, along with County Board Chair Jim Saafeld and the entire commission,” said Morgan. “We also would not have completed this changeover without our amazing employees. Each and every one of them keeps our Airport operating day in and day out, and we have far succeeded expectations in air service, customer service, construction, and safety because of their efforts.”
You probably don’t give it a second thought—until you need it, that is. Nonetheless, it bustles about its business, transporting travelers to and from myriad destinations with first-class services and amenities. Over the years, it has been revamped, remodeled and reconstructed. Today, it bears absolutely no resemblance to its humble beginnings.
All these improvements have not gone unnoticed—or unrecognized—in an industry that’s fraught with cut-throat competition.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) has achieved the first-place ranking in the “Best Airports by Size and Region-North America” (2-5 million passengers per year) category, and tied for second place ranking in the “Best Airport by Region – North America” (all airports over two million passengers per year) category as a part of ACI’s 2015 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. These awards are granted by the Airports Council International (ACI) each year.
Maybe you don’t think it’s any big deal, but it really is. The ACI ASQ program is unique as the airport industry’s only global bench-marking program measuring passenger satisfaction in real time while passengers are at the airport. Implemented at over 300 airports worldwide, the ASQ Program delivers an in-depth assessment of the quality of the customer service experience, covering 34 key service areas such as access, parking, check-in, security, airport facilities, food and beverage, and more.ervice areas such as access, parking, check-in, security, airport facilities, food and beverage, and more.
“Customer service is a top priority for our entire team at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and we are thrilled to be recognized as the top performer of our size in North America,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks. “We’re dedicated to ensuring continued progress in this area as we make significant investments in personnel, services, and facilities focused on providing a first-class experience from the vehicle curb to the aircraft gate. We are working to improve the passenger experience every day, and this award reflects that effort.”
“We see ever-greater competition among airports, and with it increasing pressure to optimize performance across the operation, especially when it comes to the passenger experience,” said ACI Director General, Angela Gittens. About GIF’s high marks, she said, “Your airport’s results in the 2015 ASQ Survey demonstrate your professionalism, commitment, and success in delivering that high level of customer service. Your airport is a credit to our industry and I thank you and your team for this splendid achievement.”
GFIA has continued to improve the customer experience from adding concession updates, complimentary, faster Wi-Fi, airport ambassadors, a therapy dog program, updated parking and valet services, new skycap services, and more. The airport has recently commenced its $45 million Gateway Transformation Project to consolidate security screening, update restrooms, new flooring, lighting, business centers, retail and food and beverage space.
“We are thankful for all of the tenants and stakeholders who are the front-line service providers behind this award,” said Ryks. “From the airlines to our parking services, law enforcement, and curb front security, to TSA and airport ambassadors – they do a tremendous job day-in and day-out to ensure the passengers have a quality experience at our airport. We are planning a celebration to thank and recognize these employees for their efforts.”
So, next time you visit GFIA, tip your hat–or mittens–to the men and women who strive to provide us with the best possible service.
For more information on ASQ, please go here. To view details of the 2015 ASQ results, please go here.
The Gerald R. Ford International (GFIA) Airport continued to reach new heights by setting a new all-time passenger record for 2015, surpassing the previous record in 2014 by more than 215,000 passengers.
In 2015, 2,550,193 passengers flew in and out of GFIA, an increase of 9.2% from the previous record of 2,335,105 passengers set in 2014.
Not only did GFIA shatter the end of the year numbers, but it saw steady increase throughout the year with each month in 2015 seeing a substantial increase in passengers. In July 2015, 234,282 total passengers passed through GFIA, the best month in Airport history. November 2015 was also a historic month as GFIA saw 205,088 passengers enplaned and deplaned – a 14.16% increase, and the first year that the Airport served more than 200,000 passengers in November.
Over the past three years, the Airport has recorded its strongest growth in its 52-year history, serving over 7.1 million passengers over the three-year time period.
“The past few years have been tremendous for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, and we could not be more thrilled by the support received from our area business and leisure travelers who are choosing to fly to and from the Ford Airport,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks.
“The strong growth is also drawing the attention of our airline partners as we work with them to add seats and flights to both existing and new destinations, and also further justifies the need for our Gateway Transformation Project to accommodate the increasing passenger demand.”
Construction on the Gateway Transformation Project began in December 2015 and is slated to continue through summer 2017. The project’s main feature is the consolidated passenger security checkpoint which will centralize and combine security screening to one main checkpoint in the Airport, eliminating separate screening for passengers traveling through either Concourse A or B. Construction also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, restroom & lactation stations, family restrooms, pre and post security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more.
“As we continue to grow in traffic it is important that our facilities keep up with our passenger demand,” said Ryks. “Our investment in this project represents our commitment to improve amenities, infrastructure, technology, and customer service from our growing passenger base.”
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) is getting into the holiday spirit with a music festival, Irish dancers, and a visit from Santa Claus.
Santa will be passing out candy and listening to all the children’s Christmas wishes in the Airport’s Grand Hall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, December 11. Photos with Santa are free, but the airport is requesting that guest bring in at least two non-perishable food items–or make a monetary donation–to Mel Trotter Ministries. Help spread the Christmas spirit throughout the area!
“The holiday season is an important time for the Mel Trotter Ministries Food Pantry,” said Abbey Sladick, Director of Community Relations at Mel Trotter Ministries. “The food donated will help sustain us throughout the year, and we are blessed to be able to partner with the airport to ensure many families in Grand Rapids will not go hungry.”
In addition to Santa’s appearance, and those helped through Mel Trotter, GFIA’s traditional Holiday Music Festival is running the week of December 7-11th. The 21st Annual Holiday Music Festival brings in elementary, middle, and high school choirs from around West Michigan to sing a variety of Christmas carols. Daily performances run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A total of 11 local choirs representing public, charter and private schools are set to sing 20 minute song sets throughout the day, putting passengers and guests at airport in the holiday spirit.
“Our airport is extremely busy around the holidays, but it is important for us to reflect upon what this season is all about,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks. “We are hoping we can put some smiles on children’s faces as they sit on Santa’s lap and listen to carols, and at the same time we are asking West Michigan to give back to the community by donating non-perishable food items to those in need.”
In addition to the music festival & Santa’s visit, piano players and Irish dancers will also be making an appearance at the airport during the holiday season. The Ardan Academy of Irish Dance will be performing on Sunday, December 20th at the airport from 2-4 p.m.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) has partnered with “Thanks Again,” and will be the first airport in Michigan to offer airport travelers valuable rewards when they park, shop and dine at the airport.
This program allows airport passengers to automatically earn more frequent flyer miles or hotel points when they park, shop and dine at the airport. Once enrolled, travelers can also earn the same benefit at more than 160 airports and 20,000 neighborhood businesses across the U.S that are also program participants.
Enrollment in the program is free and easy. Passengers simply register any credit or debit cards at thanksagain.com/GRR and then use those cards for purchases at participating locations to earn one mile or two hotel points for every dollar spent. Points and Miles automatically accrue and new members will also receive 100 bonus miles when they enroll with a mobile device by texting FLYGRR to 82257.
“We are excited to offer our passengers the ability to earn rewards when they park, shop and dine at our airport,” said Gerald R. Ford International Airport Executive Director Brian Ryks. “It is important we recognize our passengers and thank them for their decision to fly locally. These are rewards that travelers know and like, and can redeem for tickets, flight upgrades and countless other retail items. We are happy to be the first in our state to offer such a benefit and demonstrate that we are fully committed to providing an excellent customer experience.”
In addition to the airport, local merchants can also participate in this program and allow these same passengers to earn miles and points at their place of business.
“Our best passengers tend to be core customers of many merchants outside of the airport. We see an opportunity for the airport to further extend its reach into the community by allowing local merchants to participate in this program and allow these same passengers to earn rewards at their local establishment. This opportunity is seamless, easy to implement and beneficial to everyone,” said Ryks.
“We are excited to partner with the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and kick off a seamless airport-wide loyalty program,” said Jay Ellis, SVP Network Development of Thanks Again®. This partnership with the Gerald R. Ford International Airport brings additional value to both the passenger and our network of airports and merchants as a whole. We are happy launch the program within the state of Michigan with the forward thinking team at GRR.”
Get ready to pack your bags. It is finally time to plan that dream vacation you have always wanted. Gerald R. Ford International Airport knows just the place you want to go and how to get there.
“West Michigan likes to go on the direct flight to Orlando, Florida,” said Tara Hernandez, marketing and communications manager for the airport. “Other popular direct flights are to Washington, Dallas, and Las Vegas.”
But the Gerald R. Ford Airport has more to offer than direct flights to entertaining cities. The airport is working on ways to make the travelers more comfortable. For example in both concourse A and concourse B there are charging stations in between the seats. This way travelers can charge their phones, tablets, and computers.
If for a reason a flight is delayed there is a food court available, where the airport just added a Bells Brewery restaurant. It has Bells beer on tap, and Bells food, just like the Kalamazoo pub. But for all the craft beer drinkers this is only the beginning.
“In concourse B we are going to be opening what we call a Great Lakes Tap Room. It will be catering West Michigan beers, Founders IPA, Bells, and New Holland,” said Hernandez. “It is actually a really cool design, there are terrazzo Italian floors, and natural back lighting.”
It is not just the adults who get to have fun, while waiting for their flight. The kids have their own station to0. Say goodbye, to the hard wooden animal shaped puzzles, and connect four. At Gerald R. Ford Airport, there is a kid’s port right in the Grand Hall area, this room contains Legos, a white board, magnets, and toys.
The Gerald R Ford international airport is the second biggest airport in Michigan, next to Detroit. There are 120 daily non-stop air flights. In the past year, over 2.134 million passengers came through the airport.
“We just have a bunch of really exciting stuff going on! We are growing every year and that is a good thing,” replied Hernandez enthusiastically.
If you want to learn more about discounted tickets, airport construction, best times to travel, delays, and traffic, check out the Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s facebook, and twitter page.