Wilmington Airport gets $5.6 million federal grant for upgrade at 1950s-era terminal

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Sketch of upgraded Wilmington Airport terminal.
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Delaware Gov. John Carney and the state’s congressional delegation announced a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration that will lead an upgrade at a Wilmington Airport terminal that dates back to the mid-1950s.

Funding for this grant came from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and its Airport Terminal Program.

In October 2023, the delegation sent a letter of support to U.S. Department of U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for Delaware River and Bay Authority’s grant application to design and construct upgrades to the passenger terminal.

The grant will help expand commercial aviation service from the airport and improve the customer experience, expand accessibility and replace outdated power infrastructure, a release stated. The project will also support about 60 temporary construction jobs and could allow commercial carriers to add 100 more jobs at the airport.

The airport saw a strong debut from Avelo Airlines, beginning in 2023 that led to total passenger traffic nearing the 300,000 mark. Avelo has since reduced the number of cities it serves from the airport, but still offers the most flights out of the airport since a brief service surge from Frontier Airlines, which abruptly departed as it focused on Philadelphia International Airport. Service from Aveo is primarily to Florida destinations on a twice-weekly basis.

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The terminal is near capacity and has only one boarding gate and a small passenger waiting area. Security screening has been wedged into the terminal. The bottlenecks could limit any major expansion of service and/or the entry of another airline, although DRBA officials say Avelo’s performance shows ILG to be a viable option for Delaware Valley passengers.

The DRBA has plans for an expansion of the terminal that go well beyond the recent grant. It is already preparing to add close-in parking by demolishing a former hotel and restaurant near the terminal. While major expansion would be dependent on federal funding, the DRBA has used proceeds from an airport property sale to make improvements.

“ILG’s continued growth is great news for our state and is part of a string of successes for air travel in Delaware,”  US Sen. Chris Coons. “Modernizing our airport will help even more travelers find their way to the First State and strengthen our role as a commercial hub, creating good-paying jobs and boosting our economy. President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law continues to deliver for Delaware.”

“On behalf of the Delaware River and Bay Authority Commission and staff, I’d like to thank Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Congresswoman Blunt-Rochester for their collective efforts to secure this vital funding to expand and improve Wilmington Airport’s passenger terminal building,” said DRBA Executive Director Thomas J. Cook. “We also appreciate the passionate assistance of Governor Carney and New Castle County Executive Meyer who helped us get over the hump with their strong backing of the grant submission. When completed, the terminal project will provide the airport and our partner, Avelo Airlines, with greater operational and scheduling flexibility while also improving the overall customer experience. A key goal in this project is to add room for an additional security lane to speed the TSA screening process, including for the first time a dedicated TSA Pre-Check lane. This is great news for the State of Delaware and those across the region who fly out of Wilmington Airport – ILG!”

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