The new $431-million North Terminal is expected to open Sept. 17, right on schedule, at Detroit Metro Airport, ending the era of the shabby Smith and Berry terminals.
"With the McNamara and North terminals, we now have two beautiful front doors for anyone arriving in our region by air," Michael Conway, Metro Airport spokesman, said as the Free Press got a sneak-peek tour Friday.
On Sept. 16, after their last flights, airlines will transfer during the night to the new terminal.
North will open for business Sept. 17 with 24 gates open and two more to follow next summer.
Built directly across the street from the Big Blue Deck parking structure, the terminal is about half the size and with a fifth as many gates as McNamara. Yet in many ways it looks like McNamara -- light, lots of glass, straight-line design, lots of stainless steel.
The main thing passengers will notice is that the terminal will be easier to navigate than McNamara. Because it is smaller, it's easy to find the passenger walkway to the parking deck, baggage claim and the right gate.
The new terminal likely won't be named North very long, either. The airport is selling the naming rights to the terminal, perhaps even before it opens.
The new terminal is about a half-mile-long end to end. It won't have a tram.
• Far more color than the understated McNamara. Many of North's walls, jetways and part of its terrazzo floor are a bright shade of royal blue. Funky white orb lights decorate the terminal at both ends.
• Four sets of moving walkways and 50,000 square feet of stores and restaurants, including a Hockeytown Café, a Borders and a Ruby Tuesday. Unlike McNamara, there also will be a restaurant at baggage claim and restrooms in the departures area before security.
• Many electrical outlets so travelers can plug in their laptops. (Like the rest of the airport, it also will have terminal-wide Wi-Fi.)
• Like McNamara, a transit center for airport shuttles, taxis and limos will be across the pedestrian bridge adjacent to the parking deck.
North does have some things McNamara doesn't, including the newest passenger screening machines, a hidden high-tech luggage screening system and a modular construction that makes layout changes easier.
Each gate also will have sophisticated, energy-efficient jet-refueling and power stations that save airlines fuel and electricity.
"We tried to take lessons learned from McNamara, which was built pre-9/11," said Scott Roberts, deputy director of public affairs who has been involved in the North project since it took off in October 2005.
From the main lobby, there are two security checkpoints on either side of the ticket counters. The terminal will be able to take international flights and have a complete customs and immigration facility.
North will service Spirit, Southwest, American, United, USAirways, Frontier and Air Tran, all of which have been forced to operate out of the 51-year-old Smith.
USA 3000 airlines will transfer from the virtually empty Berry Terminal.
Lufthansa and Royal Jordanian airlines, now based at McNamara, also will move there.
Northwest Airlines and its partners will remain at the McNamara Terminal.
Smith and Berry terminals will be demolished in the coming months.
The new terminal is built for 7 million passengers. About 4 million are expected to pass through it the first year. Five more gates could be added if necessary, Roberts said.
One other change? "Airlines aren't going to chisel their logos into the finish" at the gates, said Scott Wintner, another Metro spokesman.
In a nod to the swiftly changing airline picture, electronic signs will tell passengers which gate and ticket counter belongs to which airline.
North Terminal is being paid for with bonds that will be repaid by a $4.50 surcharge on passenger tickets.
The new terminal may draw new airlines to Metro, Roberts said.
"If a new airline wanted to come in, they could start right away," he said, "which gives more service at the airport, keeps the prices down and gives travelers another option to get someplace."
Posted by Erin Rose at 1:54 PM