From the Director’s Desk: Celebrating 5 years and what comes next
June 2, 2023
This month marks my five year anniversary as executive director of the Quad Cities International Airport. I want to take a moment to reflect on these past few years and reiterate my goals for the QC Airport moving forward.
During my first year, my only goal was to learn – get to know the staff, understand the community, and learn the processes and inner-workings of the airport. Toward the latter part of 2019, passenger activity was on the rise, and several new amenities were in the works. But the COVID-19 global pandemic brought travel, and our plans, to a screeching halt.
We respected the recommendation of health experts to avoid travel and instead, shared with passengers the safest parts of air travel and what they could do to further protect themselves. It’d be understandable to count those as ‘lost’ years. But in hindsight, our team rose to the challenge and demonstrated what we’re capable of. We took care of each other, and continued to work hard for the passengers who still needed to travel.
I was so impressed by the camaraderie, communication and stick-to-itiveness that was on display day after day. Earlier this month, the final federal COVID restriction for international travel was lifted and we officially closed that chapter.
We announced our terminal renovation plans in early 2021 alongside our rebranding efforts. We knew travel would be forever changed by the pandemic so we seized the opportunity to reinvent ourselves both in look and passenger experience. Project GATEWAY will not only bring our airport in line with the modern travel experience; my goal is that everyone involved in its design and construction will think about how we future proof to meet any variety of known and unknown needs of the future of air travel.
I’m excited for the work to begin. It seems nearly every previous airport director saw the need for terminal improvements – starting with George Kirk who both figuratively and literally paved the way for the airport’s future and made it a regional powerhouse.
The next expansion in 1985 made way for larger aircraft and the airport’s new port of entry status. Gaining port of entry status gave us the designation of an international airport, with the ability to clear international cargo and private flights. It’s an important distinction that allows major companies to continue operating in the Quad Cities.
Lastly, the airside renovation of 2001 still stands as an example of what a modern, beautiful transportation facility looks like. Projects of this magnitude are challenging but I hope the result will make our staff and our community proud of their hometown airport.
If we’ve learned anything from the past 3 years, it’s that air service is fickle, and airlines can’t add what they don’t have. We’ve evolved our advocacy efforts but with so much of that decision-making out of our control, we must turn our attention to what we can control. I will continue to expand our airport’s impact beyond commercial air travel. Diversifying our revenue prior to the pandemic helped us weather that prolonged storm.
We’re continuing to pursue increased cargo operations, support our general aviation community, and keep our eyes open for new aviation technologies that need what we can offer – space, affordability and a willingness to embrace bold ideas. I believe commercial space travel is possible in our lifetime, and I want the Quad Cities to be home to Illinois’ first space port.
When I first took this role, I thought I’d finish five years, having hopefully made some improvements, and move on to another airport. Now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. The support that we have in the Quad Cities from our passengers, local businesses and leaders, and the people that work here make it unlike any other place. The last five years have – pun intended – flown by, and I’m ready and excited for the next five years.