ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – If you’ve ever flown in or out of the Albuquerque Sunport, chances are you’ve stepped foot in one of the airport’s old jet bridges. You’ve also probably noticed most of the city’s airplane walkways are from an era of the past, with dim lighting and an overall outdated look.
A big refresh is now in order for ABQ’s jet bridges as the airport just confirmed a second federal grant worth $7-million in terminal improvements. Now with a total of $14-million from the FAA, Albuquerque Sunport officials are hoping to modernized all 21 remaining outdated airplane walkways with a lot of upgrades over the next couple years.
The upgrades are expected to include improvements for customer comforts and airport operations. On the customer side, a spokesperson for the Sunport says crews will replace carpet, interior panels, ceiling, lighting and accessibility components. They’ll also refurbish the hallways connecting the terminal building to the jet bridge.
On the outside, crews will do some foundation work, then replace mechanical and electrical systems on the jet bridges. That includes replacing ground power units that power aircraft electronics while they’re parked at the terminal.
New cabs will also be installed on the jet bridges. That’s the area where operators use a control stick to connect the accordion like platform to the side of the plane.
Albuquerque’s current jet bridges are 26 to 33 years old, according to the Sunport. So why not just replace them all together? Diana Lopez from the Sunport’s marketing department says the Sunport’s current bridges are actually structurally stronger than some modern ones.
“The structures of our existing bridges are more substantial [and] stronger than those of newer bridges,” Lopez said. “This is one of the primary reasons we decided to refurbish the existing bridges versus purchasing brand new bridges.”
If you get a chance to board or deplane at Albuquerque’s gate B1, you’ll get an idea of what the newer look jet bridges will look like. The city refreshed that passenger walkway back in 2020.
Albuquerque Sunport officials say the work will start first on Concourse A with 11 jet bridges undergoing construction likely after the summer travel season. That’s the concourse that typically handles all of the Southwest Airlines flights.
A contractor was recently selected for that work and plans are now being finalized before construction begins, according to the city. That project should cost around $7-million in grant funds, which the FAA awarded Albuquerque last year.
“The project will be carried out in phases, to minimize disruptions to our operations,” Lopez said. “We anticipate work beginning this Fall [on Concourse A,] depending on lead time for materials and other technical factors.”
The second half of the work (on Concourse B) is expected to begin likely sometime in 2024. Sunport officials plan to use the recently awarded $7-million in grant funds for that leg of the project. The federal funding was allocated specifically for the jet bridge project, so the Sunport can’t use it for anything else.
Meanwhile, work continues on the $85-million project to upgrade the TSA screening area and add new vendor space at the terminal. Crews started work last November, and recently held a meeting geared at finding new concessionaires for the future revamped terminal.