In the first half of 2018, two major capital developments opened at San Diego International Airport that greatly enhanced the passenger journey while strengthening the airport’s financial position.


In May, the new Parking Plaza opened next to Terminal 2. The Parking Plaza offers 2,900 spaces of much-needed close-in parking and will help offset the multi-year loss of parking during the replacement of Terminal 1. The structure offers state-of-the-art parking technology that guides motorists to available spaces, thereby reducing emissions that come from cars idling and circulating in search of an open spot.

The Parking Plaza also features one of the region’s largest stormwater-capture systems, which collects rain that falls on the roof of the structure and diverts it to the airport’s Central Utility Plant. There, the rainwater is used in place of potable water to help regulate air temperatures in the terminals. The stormwater capture system also addresses the issue of sea-level rise by diverting rain that would otherwise run off into San Diego Bay.

As of December 2018, after less than four months of operation, the system had collected and re-used over 380,000 gallons. By May 2019, that number totaled 1.6 million gallons.

In June of last year, the Airport Authority, along with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, held a ribbon-cutting to mark the completion of a new 130,000-square-foot International Arrivals facility in Terminal 2. SAN has experienced significant growth in international arrivals in the past quarter-century – from about 50,000 passengers a year in the early 1990s to more than 400,000 a year in 2017. About 1 million international passengers came through the airport in 2018. That number – and the associated economic impact – will continue to grow as more international nonstop flights are added.

Expanded international air service is a key customer service goal for the Airport Authority. Inbound flights have a significant economic impact to the San Diego region as visitors spend money locally and contribute to the economy. Further, international visitors on average stay 30 percent longer, and spend 43 percent more, than domestic visitors.

At 130,000 square feet, the new facility is five times larger than the previous facility. It also increases the number of international gates at the airport from three to six. The new facility improves the processing experience for passengers with reduced wait times and a more welcoming environment. It also features the newest technologies from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including biometric or facial recognition technology.

Both the Parking Plaza and International Arrivals Facility feature integrated public artworks.

Airport Authority, Airlines Reach Landmark Pact

2018 Snapshot

In an ongoing effort to improve the customer experience, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has reached a new 10-year agreement with its airline partners that will give the Airport Authority the ability to contribute over a half-billion dollars to help alleviate traffic congestion and make it easier for everyone to access San Diego International Airport.

The Airport Authority is currently working with its regional partners, including SANDAG, the City of San Diego, Port of San Diego, the Military, MTS, Caltrans and NCTD on potential transportation and transit connection improvements to the airport. The agreement with the airlines will help provide key funding for those projects, if approved.

The contribution of over a half-billion dollars includes:

  • $350 million for on- and potential off-airport public transportation projects in conjunction with regional partner agencies. The agreement allows the Airport Authority to contribute up to this amount when third-parties (such as regional partner agencies) contribute funds for off-airport transportation and transit projects.
  • This funding could also help pay for a new transit station on airport property that could connect to the regional system.
  • An additional $165 million – funded 100 percent by the Airport Authority and the Airlines - could be used for multimodal mobility corridor improvements also contemplated in the Airport Development Plan and, if approved, might include an inbound, on-airport access roadway adjacent to Harbor Drive and a bicycle path.
  • If approved, the roadway would connect Laurel Street directly to the airport, with no traffic lights. It also includes a right-of-way for future outbound lanes.

$500 Million+

For On- & Off-Airport Public Transportation Projects

As with all off-airport projects, the Airport Authority will seek FAA approval for possible off-airport transportation and transit projects.

This agreement also supports the Airport Development Plan (ADP), which envisions the replacement of Terminal 1 and related improvements.

As SAN Changes, So Must Airport Emergency Plan

2018 Snapshot

Like all certified commercial airports, SAN is required by the FAA to keep and maintain an Airport Emergency Plan (AEP). SAN’s AEP outlines the procedures the airport must follow to plan for and respond to any number of emergency situations, including aircraft incidents, bomb threats, fires and even natural disasters. The AEP is made available to the airlines, air cargo operators, terminal tenants, Harbor Police, San Diego Fire, TSA, Customs & Border Protection, and neighbors and stakeholders such as the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Coast Guard, and the American Red Cross, among others.

As SAN changes and grows with the times, so must the AEP. AEPs are living, breathing documents, and as such, need to be updated continually. For example, SAN’s AEP was updated in 2018 to reflect the new Communications Center and functions of airport departments that play key roles in an emergency.

The AEP also helps the airport plan for and conduct training scenarios, such as annual tabletop exercises and the triennial airfield disaster exercise, (known as AIREX), coming up in 2020.

Airfield Improvements Optimize the Customer Journey

2018 Snapshot

Many improvements that will greatly enhance the passenger experience were made in 2018, but some are almost invisible to the traveling public. For example, workers completed major runway and taxiway rehabilitation projects last year that will ease the journey from runway to gate. The airport’s single runway was closed from midnight to 5:00 AM to allow for milling, paving, and re-striping activities. Additionally, the current runway lights were replaced with energy-saving LED lights, the runway pavement was grooved and striped, and eight cross taxiways were rehabilitated.

The Airport Authority also prepared the project requirements for the Airport Support Facilities, which includes an Airline Support Building (for provisioning, GSE maintenance, and belly cargo) and a new campus for the Authority’s Facilities Management Department. All of this is essential to ensure an efficiently run airport. Both of these projects will replace inefficient older buildings and be more optimally sited within the airport’s limited 661-acre footprint. Finally, the Airport Authority continued the environmental review phase of its proposed Airport Development Plan, which focuses on replacing the aging Terminal 1.

While the airport relies on federal grants to help pay for projects, these grants are never a certainty, depending on regional considerations or granting agency priorities. This requires back-up financing plans to ensure project delays do not occur.

Construction of the Airport Support Facilities project will continue. The Airport Authority will seek government finance assistance under a supplemental appropriation for the FAA Airport Improvement Program and engage congressional delegation for support on financial assistance for critical infrastructure projects.