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PDX bids a not-so-fond farewell to Concourse A

PORTLAND — After 31 years, the final air travelers have passed through Concourse A at Portland International Airport.

Built as a temporary structure in 1988, the concourse jutting out of the airport’s southeast corner served Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air turboprop planes making short flights, typically to destinations in the Northwest.

Its dark, almost gloomy ambience is a stark contrast to the rest of a bright, passenger-friendly airport that Travel + Leisure magazine has rated as the nation’s best for seven consecutive years.

Wednesday’s closing of Concourse A and the upcoming expansion and remodeling of Concourse B is part of PDX Next, a $2 billion investment in the airport’s concourses, terminal, parking and rental car facilities.

“This day has seemed so far off,” Katie Meeker, communications manager for PDX Next, said from a seat in the narrow concourse Wednesday. “And after 31 years in this temporary structure, we are saying goodbye.”

PDX officials say the expansion and renovation will create a better traveling experience with a roomier concourse, comfortable seating, additional charging outlets, more natural light and better concessions.

Concourse A provided 13 parking spots for smaller planes that were ground loaded, with passengers walking outside across the tarmac to board their flights.

The last flight out of Concourse A, Alaska Flight 3368 to Spokane, was scheduled to leave at 10:50 p.m. Wednesday. Meeker said PDX officials would mark the occasion by passing out cookies and glow sticks symbolizing a brighter future.

Starting today, all Concourse A flights will shift to seven parking spots served by three gates at the west end of Concourse C, PDX’s busiest, which serves its biggest carriers, Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

A temporary tent with metal stairs and ramps has been erected for arriving passengers. Departing travelers will use jet bridges fitted with ramps to walk down to the tarmac. An elevator is available for passengers with disabilities.

Meeker said workers will begin removing chairs and other furnishings shortly after Concourse A closes. Port of Portland police and fire intend to hold drills in the closed concourse in early December, and actual demolition won’t begin until January 2020.

PDX debated when to close the concourse before deciding Wednesday would be its final day, she said.

“We needed to close it either in advance of the holidays or after,” Meeker said. “We knew we didn’t want to close it the week of Thanksgiving.”

PDX officials have encouraged passengers and employees to submit memories of the now-closed concourse. Meeker said about 150 have been received.

“People have a love-hate relationship with this concourse,” she said. ” ‘It’s so dark; I can’t find a power outlet.’ But if you wait a beat, they’ll say they kind of love it.”

At least one couple discovered love in Concourse A.

Meeker said an Alaska pilot contacted the airport to say he met his future wife, a flight attendant, in the concourse. The airport agreed to his request to provide the A6 gate sign as a memento of their union once the concourse closes, she said.

During construction, two of Concourse B’s four gates will close. The expanded, remodeled concourse will open in summer 2021 with four gates equipped with jet bridges, B1 to B4, along with six ground-loading parking spots, B5 to B10.

Meeker said the airport is able to go from 13 to six ground-loading spots because of the trend toward larger-capacity lanes.

When the work is all done, PDX will have four concourses, lettered B through E, something that airport managers playfully called out on the PDX Next’s website,

“That means that the alphabet at PDX will now officially begin with ‘B,’ not ‘A,’ ” the website says. “We’re doing our part to keep Portland a little weird.”

The website doesn’t exactly shower Concourse A with affection. It’s more “good riddance” than “so long old friend,” at least based on four rotating headlines.

“Goodbye, windowless cave. Hello natural light.”

“Goodbye, endless tunnel. Hello, moving walkways.”

“You were our favorite concourse. In 1988.”

“We’ll miss you. Sort of.”


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