SANFORD, Fla. — A major portion of Orlando Sanford International Airport's $60 million expansion and renovation is now finished.

The airport's goal is to make travelers’ journey from the car to the gate more seamless, with lots of new technology.​

What You Need To Know

  • Orlando Sanford Airport unveils most of its expansion, renovation

  • The changes provide more room, upgrade technology

  • Four gates and a new baggage claim area to open in April

  • Changes set up airport for when travel increases postpandemic

The expansion includes:

  • A ticketing area that's now about 30% larger
  • Canopies outside to protect from rain when entering or leaving the terminal
  • An expanded Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint area
  • A restored World War II bomber perched high above overlooking the terminal
  • Four new gates and a new baggage claim area to open April 2021

The ticketing area has new counters, with new baggage handling systems with the latest technology, new Orlando Sanford International Airport President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Nolan said

"The aerospace industry is evolving, and it's important for the whole process to be more efficient," Nolan said.

Nolan's goal is to complement anchor airline Allegiant Airlines with new domestic and international airlines. 

Nolan, who brings more than 35 years of airport-management industry experience to this job, is optimistic -- even in these tough times -- because the Orlando area is a leisure destination.

"They have been essentially impacted severely, and a low-cost airport with modern, new improvements and convenience is going to be a very attractive option for other airlines," Nolan said.

Sections of the expansion will open in April 2021,  including the new baggage-claim area.

"They're upright, makes it easier to retrieve luggage,” Nolan said. “You can double-stack luggage."

 Four new gates will bring the airport to 16 gates.

"Make it more convenient and less congested for the passengers," Nolan said.

Passengers seem to like what they see so far.

Cooped up at home in Kentucky, family-friends Benita Martin and Lily Moore packed for Florida, their first time flying during the pandemic.

"They explained that their ventilation system wasn't almost like that of an operating room which made me feel better," Benita Martin said.

Getting through security is now easier with the expanded TSA checkpoint.

"You were crowded trying to get up through security, and I like now how it's kind of off to the side,” Moore said. “You just feel like you have a lot more room to get around."

Passenger traffic is down about 50% at Orlando Sanford International Airport, and at airports across the country, during this pandemic compared to this time last year.

But UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Associate Dean Dr. Alan Fyall said U.S. air travel is relatively strong, considering the world is still well into the coronavirus pandemic. 

He agreed that the airport is on the right path for success.​

"What Sanford is doing, it's a long, long-term investment, but I think what it sends is a clear, positive signal that it's ready for the future," Fyall said.

He said he expects international travel to return to prepandemic levels in Summer 2022 or Summer 2023.

After April's grand opening, the international arrivals terminal at Orlando Sanford International is going to be remodeled. That should be completed in about two years.