Everyone knows that kids are fascinated with airplanes. Operators of the passenger terminal at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport hope to make it even more interesting for youngsters with the addition of children’s play areas outdoors and inside.
Helping out with the project are students from the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus College of Technology and Innovation, who conducted a three-month study to determine what improvements passengers most want at the Charles L. Williams Passenger Terminal, 6033 S. Sossaman Road.
Among the findings: passengers want more child play areas and more cafes and stores to patronize while they wait to board their flights.
All of those improvements are in the works, said airport spokesman Brian Sexton.
“The items are mostly unfunded at this time, but we are looking for innovative ways to implement most of them — like through corporate sponsorships or funding them out of our capital budget first and seeking sponsorships later,” he said.
The fast-growing airport, which has served more than a million passengers since Allegiant Air began flying there in 2007, sponsored the study as part of a senior capstone course in which students solve real-life management issues in the airline industry.
The first of the student suggestions the airport wants to implement is an improvement to the existing courtyard to give children more places to play outdoors, Sexton said. Also planned is an indoor kids zone, possibly with video games, in the existing terminal building.
Sexton said airport managers plan to take about $30,000 out of the capital budget, which could later be offset by corporate sponsorships, to get the improvements going even before a $9 million terminal expansion is completed late this year.
“This we can do fairly quickly, hopefully this spring,” he said.
For the longer term, airport officials are in talks with the Arizona Museum of National History in Mesa to set up geology or other exhibits that would be of interest to both kids and their parents.
He emphasized, however, those discussions are in the very early stage.
As for the additional shops and cafes, those will have to await the completion of the new terminal annex, he said.
Sexton said the passenger interviews conducted by the ASU students provided valuable help for airport planners.
“It wasn’t just a group of students with their own opinions. They interviewed passengers with children, and these were suggestions that came from those who travel through Gateway,” he said.
The aviation capstone program has produced other airport studies in past semesters, including a cost-savings analysis for US Airways and several projects at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, said Mary Niemczyk, an assistant professor and head of the Air Transportation Management program.
Sponsors liked the student work so much that the course requirements had to be changed so students could only do the projects in their last semester of study, she said.
“They were doing such outstanding work that students were being offered full-time jobs before finishing their degree,” Niemczyk said.