Connecticut Airport Authority hopes passenger growth will take off at Bradley

The Connecticut Airport Authority is making an aggressive push to attract more travelers to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, particularly those along the Shoreline, all the way from Fairfield County to the Rhode Island border.

Evidence of that effort is all around at Bradley, New England’s second largest airport in term’s of passenger traffic after Logan International in Boston.

Follow the Route 20 connector all the way to Bradley’s main entrance and you’ll see road construction designed to help accommodate a new transportation center that Kevin Dillon, the Authority’s executive director, hopes to have in operation sometime in 2020. The roadwork is being done to allow for a different circulation of traffic on the airport’s grounds, according to Dillon.

Reworking traffic circulation on the airport’s grounds will make more space available for the transportation center, he said. The new facility will be built an area adjacent to where the airport’s Terminal B used to exist before its demolition was completed in 2016.

Once inside the terminal, passengers are greeted by renovations being done to the public area of the terminal. Once passengers have made it through security, Bradley’s remake continues.

A space that once held spare mattresses for use by travelers who might be stranded at the airport by inclement weather has been converted into a snazzy travelers’ lounge. For a fee of $45, travelers with a little time on their hands can visit the Escape Lounge and sample a variety of complimentary hot- and cold-foods as well as drinks in the lounge’s fully stocked bar.

Tegan Abear lives near Stockbridge, Massachusetts and travels 27 weeks a year for business. He said under the right circumstances, he might spend the money and use the lounge.

“They’re not going to draw the Mom and Pop crowd taking the kids to Disney, that’s for sure,” Abear said

Escape Lounge just celebrated its first anniversary and the makeover of the airport’s concessions is still a work in progress. The Dunkin Donuts located across the hall from the lounge will soon undergo an expansion to accommodate more ordering stations.

Airport Authority officials also showcased the changes made to the terminal’s concessions last week by taking Connecticut reporters to Two Roads Brewery. The Stratford-based craft brewer opened its Bradley terminal location earlier this year and travelers can slake their thirst either at the airport location or fill-up a growler to take along with them.

The transportation center would bring all of the rental-car companies that serve the airport into one location that travelers could walk to from Bradley’s main terminal building. Currently, the rental-car locations are scattered in multiple locations along the periphery of the airport, which requires arriving and departing passengers to take shuttle buses to and from the terminal.

When the Hartford Line commuter rail between New Haven and Springfield, Massachusetts, begins operating next May, it will include more frequent stops at the Windsor Locks train station, which is located three miles from the terminal. There will be frequent shuttle bus service between the train station and the airport, Dillon said.

The transportation center will also include gates for regional bus operators like Peter Pan and Vermont Translines, since the airport’s customer base also includes much of western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

Dillon’s goal is to push passenger traffic to 10 million annually over the next several years. Last year, 6.3 million travelers used Bradley and the airport’s most recent travel peak was 7.2 million in 2006. The recession that followed stopped the passenger growth for a time a long with higher jet fuel prices that made it more costly to travel.

Dillon said attracting more passengers from New Haven and Fairfield counties is critical to achieving the 10 million passenger milestone.