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More Airports Renovating, Adding New Terminals

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's come back to the United States for this next story, because over the past few years, more than a dozen American airports - big and small - have renovated or added new terminals. The latest in Birmingham, Alabama opens today.

NPR's Russell Lewis reports on why so many airports are sprucing up.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: With just hours before the new $200 million terminal was to open, it was a mad dash...

(SOUNDBITE OF DRILLING)

LEWIS: ...as workers drilled signs above the restaurants,

(SOUNDBITE OF UNWRAPPING)

LEWIS: unwrapped supplies at the newsstand and wheeled in new computers.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARTS)

LEWIS: The place is bright and sparkling and a far cry from the dingy, drab and decades-old facility it replaces.

The federal government, airlines and passenger fees paid for the improvements which include a Customs & Immigration facility and a much better security screening operation.

Al Denson is president of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

AL DENSON: And we wanted it to be something that said, wow. The wow factor. And I think that is what we have accomplished.

LEWIS: Elsewhere, Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport is adding gates to handle the world's biggest aircraft. Atlanta just built a new international terminal. Denson says Birmingham - like other cities - wants to standout too.

DENSON: Globalization is here and we have to position ourselves to compete in a global environment.

LEWIS: Another benefit of this new terminal: virtually every seat in the waiting area has electrical sockets - that's something any traveler will love.

Russell Lewis, NPR News, Birmingham. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
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