Traveler's Guide: New and Improved San Diego International Airport

Over the past year, the airport has debuted dozens of new features, restaurants and shops

As many as 60,000 passengers are expected to pass through San Diego International Airport each day this week.

Because the airport typically serves 40,000 to 50,000 passengers a day, there will likely be a large number of people visiting the airport this week who are unaware of the transformation that's occurred.

Travelers will be exposed to a new line-up of restaurants, shops and other features that have landed at Lindbergh Field.

Of course, most of those features are part of The Green Build, a $1 billion project to expand the airport’s bustling Terminal 2. The expansion includes 10 new gates, a duel-level roadway, additional aircraft parking and more security lanes.

Improvements also include new concessions where travelers can grab a drink and some grub before embarking on their trip.

For instance, over at Terminal 2 West, gate 45 now boasts a San Diego classic: Phil’s BBQ. Over by baggage claim, near carousel 4, travelers can now grab a cup of fresh java from Ryan Bros. Coffee.

After grabbing a bite, travelers can now pamper themselves at the airport’s first-ever spa, which opened for business over the summer. Located at gate 36 in Terminal 2 West, Be Relax Spa sells beauty products and on-site health services and treatments.

Meanwhile, in Terminal 2 East – right near gate 27 – tech fans can spend their time between flights browsing through gadgets at The Sharper Image store. In that same area, InMotion Entertainment sells headphones, cameras, tablets and other goods. Right past gate 26, the Old Town News & Market is a newsstand and retail store that sells locally-themed items.

These new offerings – with many more to come – are part of the airport’s Concession Development Program (CDP) to revamp shopping and dining options for travelers, with a focus on local fare. The program launched in December 2012, with all new businesses expected to be up and running by March 2014.

Upon completion, the number of businesses at the airport will increase to 87, up from 55. The bulk of new concessions are housed in an area known as Sunset Cove, which will eventually feature floor-to-ceiling windows, seating, public art and views to the airfield.

A highly-anticipated upcoming addition is Stone Brewing Co., which will open up two locations, one at Terminal 2 East and the other at Terminal 2 West, where travelers can enjoy San Diego’s craft beer culture.

Another improvement travelers might notice this season is the expanded security checkpoint at Terminal 2, which includes six new security lanes. The lanes are designed to cut the average wait time in half and make the process of traveling a bit smoother. Those lanes opened back in March.

In May, the San Diego International Airport also unveiled a brand-new, $35 million baggage handling system at Terminal 2. The fully-automated system processes a bag from intake to airplane in about 10 minutes and is designed to increase efficiency. It could also mean fewer chances for lost baggage.

For U.S. service members, the brand-new USO center at Terminal 2 may be the best addition to the airport. The USO facility – the largest of its kind in the world – spans nearly 10,000-square feet. It opened this past September and provides a comfortable space for service members and their families to rest and enjoy some time together between flights.

The USO center includes a pool table, computer banks with Skype to call loved ones, Wi-Fi and a large patio for service members to soak in the San Diego sunshine.

So, though The Green Build continues and the airport continues to debut new features, there is plenty to see, eat and do now at Lindbergh Field.

The airport should see plenty of buzz on Thanksgiving weekend, as the holiday travel season officially kicks off.

According to AAA’s 2013 Thanksgiving Travel Forecast, approximately 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home on Thanksgiving weekend. An estimated 3.14 million of those travelers will be flying. AAA says Wednesday (Nov. 27) will be the busiest single day of travel with 37 percent of travelers departing for their trips that day.

To check out the full list of businesses at the San Diego International Airport, travelers can visit the airport website.

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