Northwest Airlines has added a $1.2 billion terminal to its Detroit Metro Airport hub as part of a bid to recover strained passenger loyalty.

It hopes the move will restore the kudos it lost in early 1999 when thousands of passengers were kept stranded at Metro and on aircraft for as long as 18 hours during a blizzard. The incident gave a bad name to the airline, the city and the concept of connecting hubs.

The new 610,000m2 (6.6 million ft2 ) terminal is designed to ease transfers at Detroit, Northwest's largest hub, even though the airline is based near the Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport. Adjacent to a runway opened late last year, the new 97-gate terminal features an express tram that travels the mile-long 64-gate A concourse in about 180 seconds. That, and the 2.4km (1.5 miles) of moving walkways should allow a domestic connection to be made in 11 minutes. The midfield has gates on both sides of the terminal, instead of finger piers with gates, and the new 3km fourth parallel runway allows two runways to be dedicated to arrivals and two to departures. Northwest thus hopes to avoid snarls that would attract more bad publicity.

The runway and terminal are the first major airport projects put into service since last September's terror attacks. Some airport projects, such as a $1.6 billion Delta Air Lines expansion at New York JFK, have been put on hold since then, although a few, such as Delta's $400 million renovation project at Boston Logan, are going ahead.

But the expansion of Chicago O'Hare, a project with perhaps the most dramatic national impact, remains mired in the controversy that has slowed it for years. O'Hare's $6.6 billion expansion, finally agreed by state and local authorities last year after decades of dispute, has become a federal issue. Congress has launched a review of the agreement over environmental concerns and because of a takeover provision that would limit local control if the project does not progress by 2004.

Source: Airline Business