Airport working to keep traffic moving in passenger loading zone

A steady stream of people flowed into and out of the Wilmington International Airport on Thursday morning.
But something was missing from in front of the terminal building cars.

Prompted by the federal Transportation Security Administration, airport officials have started aggressively ensuring that vehicles don't linger in front of the terminal longer than it takes to pick up or drop off passengers.

The rule has been on the books for years, and signs warning that you can't park or leave vehicles unattended are displayed prominently. An announcement stating the rule also plays over the airport's public address system every few minutes.

But Wilmington, which aggressively promotes its customer-friendly flying experience, had always been a bit more lenient than other airports in shooing people away from the curb.

Not anymore.

Since the failed bombing on Christmas on Detroit-bound plane and other thwarted terrorist attacks, the TSA and local law enforcement have beefed up security measures.

You can load and unload as needed, said Deputy Airport Director Julie Wilsey. But you can't sit at the curb.

Often an airport public safety officer, along with his police car, is outside the terminal to gently remind any drivers who linger a bit too long.

But hoping to soothe any bruised feeling among its customers, airport officials are trying an initiative that's been implemented at bigger airports around the country.

It's called a cell phone lot, and the idea is to have a nearby area where motorists can park for free until the passengers they are waiting for have landed or - preferably - are at the curb with their luggage.

Small signs direct drivers to Wilmington's cell phone lot, which is the large and under-used parking lot in front of the International Terminal building.

Wilsey said motorists also have the option of parking in the airport's short-term lot, which is the closest parking area to the terminal, where the first 15 minutes are free.

We're not doing this to make money, she said, responding to a criticism that the new policy was just an effort to force more people to pay for parking, which makes up a large chunk of the airport's revenue. We're just trying to comply with the law, and we think we've given our customers two good options.

Thursday morning found several vehicles circling the airport drive several times as they waited for passengers to emerge.

Another trio of cars had pulled off the terminal access road near the taxi stand while they waited.

They were eventually shooed along by airport police.

Wilsey said officials have heard a few complaints about the stepped-up enforcement.

But she said most people, once informed of why the airport was making them move on, seemed to understand.

We don't want to inconvenience anyone, Wilsey said. But we've got to follow the rules. We don't have a choice.
Wilmington International Airport
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