Let's Fly! Updates to Will Rogers World Airport enhance family travel - MetroFamily Magazine
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Let’s Fly! Updates to Will Rogers World Airport enhance family travel

by Erin Page, photos provided

Reading Time: 5 minutes 

Air travel is steadily climbing back to pre-pandemic rates, including at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport. In 2022, the airport saw 4 million passengers come through its doors. While that didn’t quite catch 2019’s record number of 4,418,768 passengers, the first quarter of 2023 outperformed 2019’s numbers, placing the airport on pace to grow into a 4.5 million passenger airport within the next year, reports public information officer and marketing manager Stacey Hamm.

What’s new at Will Rogers World Airport?

If you haven’t been to Will Rogers World Airport since before the pandemic, you might think you’ve been teleported to a different city when you enter the modern, airy, thriving travel hub. The most recent airport expansion, opened in September 2021, includes a new security checkpoint, two “meeter greeter” lobbies and a dedicated exit for disembarking passengers to head from the concourse level to baggage claim.

Located at the new east end, past all the airline ticket counters, the new security checkpoint is expansive. Six checkpoints lanes, compared to the previous three, mean passengers are screened more quickly. Two more lanes will be added in the future.

Once through security, the Town Center, an open, light-filled space, leads to restrooms, a mother’s nursing room, a pet relief area and three new Delta Airlines gates at the east end of the terminal. New restaurants include a Starbucks and Vino Volo, plus locally owned Tin Lizzie’s retail store features unique gifts and Made in Oklahoma products. Plenty of furniture for relaxing, holding a meeting before a business trip or charging your devices with built-in plug-ins dot the concourse.

In the center concourse food court, Freddie’s Frozen Custard & Steak Burgers and Tropical Smoothie offer quick bites. Grab snacks, books, magazines and other travel necessities at the new Oklahoma’s Own News 9 store and tech accessories at the iStore. Head to the west concourse for classic Italian cuisine at the newly opened Osteria or get your preflight caffeine fix at small-batch roastery Elemental Coffee.

Coming soon!

Both the airport itself and the number of passengers it services have grown substantially in the past 10 years. A master plan to enhance parking options is in the works, with a focus on adding more parking garages, expanding current lots and offering more partially covered parking. The plan will be complete by 2024 with parking enhancements expected to be completed over the next 10 years.

Set to open by the end of this year, local retailer Plenty Mercantile will offer sustainable gifts. New concept The Apartment, which will feel like travelers are stepping into a chic apartment setting complete with virtual cityscapes viewed through the windows, will have apparel, books, beauty products, furnishings and fixtures for sale. Then, in 2024, Hatch Early Mood Food, serving sweet and savory breakfast options, will replace The Grill at OKC and complete the eatery upgrades.

Will Rogers is set to join the international travel scene by 2025. The airport’s leadership team is working to recruit international air service directly out of Oklahoma City, instead of locals having to travel first to Denver or Dallas-Fort Worth. One gate in the new east terminal will be dedicated to international flights. The build-out has already begun for the Federal Inspections Services space, where international travelers will be processed through customs and access a separate baggage claim.

Did you know?

Even frequent flyers may not be aware of these 3 unique offerings at Will Rogers World Airport:

1. Parking reservations are available in Garage A, which is on the lower level with the closest proximity to the terminal. Making a reservation costs a one-time fee of $5, plus you’ll pay the daily or hourly parking fee when you leave the airport. Especially if you’re toting kids and all their gear, this could be a great time (and sanity) saver! Capacity is reached quickly during holidays and school breaks, and reservations are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit flyokc.com/parking-rates and click on Premium Parking Reservations to reserve your spot.

2. If you have a child who loves airplanes, you can visit the airport to watch planes land and take off without going through security. Located in the east wing, the mezzanine/public observation area can be accessed past the ticket counters and the entrance to the security checkpoint. Take the stairs up to the second level and follow the long walkway through a set of double doors until you see the wall of glass with views of the runways. Take a seat in the comfy armchairs and consult the monitors to see when the next plane is due to arrive. The public observation area is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to enjoy.

3. Field trips for school and community groups are available free of charge. The airport regularly hosts children’s groups as well as high school and college aviation students and adult community groups. Tour groups can see behind the scenes of baggage claim, watch how TSA agents screen luggage, work with agents to understand the equipment used at the security checkpoint and even visit the airport fire station and meet the fire crew. Contact stacey.hamm@okc.gov to schedule.

Top tips for traveling families

As Will Rogers World Airport continues to serve more passengers and as air travel increases, make sure to revisit these tips before your next flight:

•Arrive at least 90 minutes to two hours ahead of when your flight boards (not when it’s scheduled to take off). Oftentimes passengers think that because Will Rogers is a smaller airport, they can arrive closer to take-off time, but Hamm advises that can result in missed flights.

•Leave yourself plenty of time if you’ll be parking a car, especially when traveling during a holiday or school break.

•Will Rogers World Airport is not a 24/7 operation. While staff is onsite 24/7, TSA closes as soon as the last flight leaves for the night (usually around 8 to 8:30 p.m.) and doesn’t reopen until 3:30 to 4 a.m. That means if you’re traveling on a later evening flight, ensure you arrive before 8 p.m. or security will be closed.

•The busiest time of day at the airport for departures is 5 to 8 a.m. If you have a 5 a.m. flight, arrive between 3:30 and 4 a.m., when TSA opens, so you have time to get through security.

•The lunch hour, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is a busy time for arrivals, which means traffic can be heavy and you’ll need extra time for parking and/or getting dropped off.

•Make sure to have your valid, up-to-date driver’s license if flying domestically and your passport and proper documentation if flying internationally.

•Double check what you can and can’t pack in your carry-on on your airlines’ website.

•If you plan to travel with a firearm (only allowable in your checked luggage), call the airline you’re flying for the proper regulations on how to pack it. Each airline has different requirements.

•Pack your patience. And snacks. Air travel is still fairly unstable, with pilot shortages and technology glitches translating to more delays than pre-pandemic times.

Catch a nonstop flight from OKC to:

  • Atlanta
  •  Austin
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago (Midway and O’Hare)
  • Dallas Ft. Worth
  • Denver
  • Destin – Ft. Walton (seasonally)
  • Houston (Hobby and International)
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami International
  • Minneapolis
  • Nashville
  • New York LaGuardia
  • Orlando (MCO and Sanford, seasonally)
  • Phoenix
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Antonio
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis – See this article for a family fun itinerary to St. Louis!
  • Tampa
  • Washington National

Learn more about Will Rogers World Airport and stay up to date with coming upgrades at flyokc.com. 

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