SLC Airport Offers Animal Relief Stations

Passenger’s furry, four-legged friends are spending more time in airports than they used to, and airports are helping by becoming a friendlier place for pets. Airports are accommodating pet passengers by designating areas as animal relief stations.

SLC International Airport has four animal relief stations located in and around the airport. Two of the stations are located pre-security, while two others are accessible behind the TSA security checkpoints.

Pre Security

The pre-security animal relief stations are located across the street from each terminal, in front of the parking garage. These grassy areas are equipped with waste stations and space to exercise pets.

Post Security

The areas behind security that are designated for animal relief are located on each side of the airport—one in Concourse B and the second near Concourse E. Because these areas are in the secure area of the airport, passengers and their pets must be escorted outside by either an airport or airline employee. Airline employees from nearby gates can assist by opening the door and walking passengers and their pets to the relief area. Passengers can also contact SLC Airport Operations by calling (801) 647-5159 for assistance.

The SLC Airport hopes these designated areas helps to make travel with pets easier, and asks that owners to do their part and pick up after their pets. To locate the airport’s animal relief stations, visit the Airport Terminal Map.

SLC Airport to Begin Hardstand Operations

Passengers departing from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) may soon see a change in the way they board their flights. SLC is expected to begin implementing hardstand operations for select flights due to increasing demand for gates and a limited capacity.

Hardstand parking is a term used by airports to describe when an aircraft is parked on the ramp and passengers are transported to the airplane via a shuttle bus rather than boarding from a loading bridge at the gate. Hardstand operations will also be used at SLC to unload passengers during peak times.

SLC has purchased three Cobus vehicles in preparation for implementing hardstand operations. Cobus vehicles can accommodate about 60 passengers with carry-on luggage. Hardstand operations are common at European airports, while large-size U.S. airports also implement hardstand operations when capacity exceeds the number of available gates.

SLC Airport purchased Cobus vehicles in preparation to implement hardstand operations.

“SLC is looking at alternative ways to accommodate our growing number of passengers,” said Russell Pack, acting director for the Salt Lake City Dept. of Airports. “Hardstand operations are the most effect way to transport passengers without delaying departures or arrivals.”

Of the 71 gates at SLC Airport, only 55 have jet bridges. The remaining 16 gates are designed for regional jets and unable to accommodate mainline aircraft. Airlines have been moving away from flying regional jets and increasing their use of larger aircraft. Airlines also operate banks of flights to help with connections, which means aircraft arrive within the same time frame creating a demand for gates.

Picture of a hardstand operation at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

The New SLC Airport gates have been designed to accommodate mainline aircraft as well as regional jets, which will address the issue of gate capacity.

SLC Airport was built in 1961 to accommodate 10 million passengers and now sees more than 23 million passengers each year. As a hub operation for Delta Air Lines, SLC averages 347 daily departures to 93 nonstop destinations.

Airport Works to Preserve Wetlands

Management of the Salt Lake City International Airport extends well beyond the Airport’s terminals and taxiways. West of the Airport campus, the Salt Lake City Dept. of Airports (SLCDA) is tasked with caring for 500 acres of wetlands and wildlife.

In the early 1990s, after the Airport opened a third runway, the Army Corps of Engineers required SLCDA to create a wetlands management plan for land west of the Airport in order to mitigate the impact construction had on the existing wetlands.

Managing a large, evolving track of wetlands is no small task. Airport staff routinely work to control invasive species—such as phragmites—monitor water levels, replace wetland plants and guard the property from trespassers. The Airport also promotes wildlife habitats for antelope and deer as well as bird species such as ducks, geese and Sandhill cranes. Coordinating with nearby landowners is also a part of the Airport’s wetlands management plan.

The management of nearby wetlands is a unique responsibility that Airport takes pride in preserving.

The New SLC

If you’ve been at the SLC International Airport recently, you’ve probably seen a lot of construction underway west of the airport.

The SLC Airport is three years into construction of the Airport Redevelopment Program, which will result in a completely new airport by 2024.

SLC is overdue for a new airport. The original terminal was built 50 years ago for 10 million passengers and was not built to be a hub operation. Today, SLC sees more than 23 million passengers each year and is a hub for Delta Air Lines. The new airport design will address seismic issues. In addition, all gates will have jet bridges and will be able to accommodate larger body planes.

The New SLC is being completed in two phases. The first phase, scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2020, will include a new Parking Garage — with twice the capacity as the current parking garage — a new Terminal, Central Utility Plant and the west portions of two new concourses.

The second phase—expected to be finished in 2023/24—will begin with demolition of the existing parking garage, terminals and eventually all concourses. This will allow construction to begin on the east portions of the new concourses.

The new airport will be easier to for passengers to navigate and the design will eliminate airplane bottlenecks on the airfield, allowing airplanes to turn around and get back in the air more quickly. That means a more efficient and effective airport.

The cost of the new airport is approximately $3.1 billion. The airport will be funded by 2017 and future bonds, Passenger Facility Charges, Federal Grants, Rental Car Facility Charges, and Airport Cash. Note that no local tax dollars will be used for the project.

More information on the Airport Redevelopment Program can be found here on our website.

Canines Working at the SLC Airport

As passenger traffic continues to increase at Salt Lake City International Airport, law enforcement officers are working to keep passengers safe and secure. The Airport and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) do this with the help of explosive detection canine teams.

SLC Airport Police explosive detection canine teams patrol all areas of the airport—both inside and out—while the TSA canines screen passengers at the security checkpoints.  These specially-trained canines are an effective tool in detecting concealed explosives, which are known to be one of the greatest threat to the aviation system.

SLC Airport Police canine teams, both the handler and the dogs, go through  12 weeks of intensive training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. One of the primary responsibilities of the handler and canine is to conduct patrols throughout the Airport for explosive materials.

From left to right: SLC Airport Police Officer Casey Strasburg with Big, SLC Airport Police Officer Chris Barker with Csoki, SLC Airport Police Officer Jake Haggerty with Bobby, SLC Airport Police Officer Robert Paxton with Bruce, TSA Officer Joanne Vasek with Bruce, TSA Officer Tom Scott with Buster.


Passengers going through the security checkpoints will see passenger screening canines (PSCs) working the queues. PSCs significantly assist TSA to more efficiently screen passengers.

The canines are tethered to the handlers at all times and work in close proximity to passengers. Handlers are trained to read the canine’s behavior to determine when a possible explosive is detected.

While the first instinct for many people is to pet the dogs, passengers are asked to refrain from doing so because it interferes with the canine’s work. The handlers, on the other hand, are approachable and happy to answer questions.

New Park and Wait Lot Coming June 1

Drivers coming to pick up passengers at the Salt Lake International Airport will need to access a new Park and Wait lot come June 1.

The new lot is located on the west side of Terminal Drive, prior to the current lot. Instead of exiting to the right, like one does to enter the current lot, those planning on waiting until their passengers arrive before proceeding down Terminal Drive will exit the road on the left.

With more parking spaces – 120 compared to 86 – the new lot will better accommodate those who take advantage of the Park and Wait lot.

The new lot, however, is not yet complete. Construction will soon begin on a convenience store that will include a Chevron gas station, an electric charging station and food options, including a Beans & Brews Coffee House, Burger King and Costa Vida. Customers can enter the store to order food, or get anything off the menus by using the drive-through. That is scheduled to be complete in the Fall of 2017.

The existing Park and Wait Lot must be vacated to make way for construction to begin on the elevated roadway that will be the entry point for The New SLC. The new roadway is designed with one level for passenger pick-up and one level for passenger drop-off. This roadway configuration is expected to alleviate congestion on Terminal Drive.

SLC’s Award-Winning Snow Removal Crews

Did you fly in or out of the Salt Lake City International Airport this past winter during a snowstorm? If so, you may not have known it at the time, but there was an award-winning snow removal crew working hard to ensure a safe arrival or departure of your plane.

The Dept. of Airport’s snow removal crew has been recognized nationally by the American Association of Airport Executives with the 2017 Balchen/Post Award for excellence in the performance of airport for snow and ice control during the winter of 2016-2017. The award, which is the eleventh earned by the SLC Airport, was presented on April 23 at the annual International Aviation Snow Symposium.

SLC Airport Maintenance Operations Superintendent Medardo Gomez accepts the 2017 Balchen/Post Award for excellence in the performance of airport for snow and ice control during the winter of 2016-2017.

SLC Airport received 51.3 inches of snow during the 2016-2017 winter season. There were nine days when snow plows and other equipment made their way out to the airfield to clear the snow. With 52.6 million sq. ft. of airfield and roads needing to be cleared during a storm, it’s no small task to keep important areas, such as runways and taxiways, clear of snow.

During those events, crews drove a total of 7,947 miles, which is almost the distance between Salt Lake City and Sydney, Australia (8,022 miles).

The biggest snowstorm of the year hit on Christmas Day as 9.4 inches fell throughout the day. Snow removal began that morning at 2:15 a.m., and finally ended at around 8 p.m. Throughout the day, crews battled the continuous snowfall and made it possible for every scheduled flight to land or take off. This was the third consecutive Christmas Day our crews were called away from their family Christmas morning, and no one from the snow removal crews called in sick that day.

During one of the winter snowstorms, KSL TV crews road got an up-close look at the snow removal operations.

Congratulations to the airfield maintenance crew for their outstanding performance.

Click here for more information on snow removal at the SLC Airport.

SLC Airport Director to Retire

The Salt Lake City Dept. of Airports (SLCDA) Executive Director Maureen Riley announced April 13 plans to retire the end of June. Maureen has served as the Airport executive director for the past 10 years. She was appointed to the position by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson in February 2007.

Maureen’s experience in both finance and construction has been a tremendous advantage for the City and has proved to be an asset for the development and design of The New SLC. Maureen has been credited with gaining approval from the airlines that serve SLC for the Airport redevelopment and for creating a successful program to get the job done.

“It’s very gratifying to know that the Salt Lake City International Airport is now positioned to meet passenger growth well into the future,” Maureen commented. “I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with our tenants, customers other stakeholders, and also, dedicated Airport employees who work hard every day to make SLC the best.”


“Maureen has been an incredible director of our airport during a historic era of passenger growth, and has been a steward of the facility’s largest-ever construction project,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “She is highly respected among her peers in the world’s airport industry for her financial skills and management talents, and she will be missed.” (Link to the Mayor’s blog post.)

Maureen has more than 30 years of experience in working in the airport industry. As an airport consultant in the 1990s, she saw first-hand the inner workings of numerous airports across the country. Working as the deputy executive director at Orlando International Airport provided Maureen the added experience with airline relations, customer service strategy and public outreach.

Maureen has been active in the airport professional groups and served as chair of the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in 2016. ACI-NA is one of five global regions that comprises ACI World, a trade organization of airports from around the globe. She also served as a member of the ACI World Board of Directors from 2012 through 2016.

“We can learn a lot from sharing experiences and information with our colleagues throughout the airport industry and use that information to create better operating results,” Maureen noted.

Before joining the airport industry in 1986, Maureen worked in public accounting for 11 years. She is a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Public Accountant.

SLC Airport Welcomes Fire Chief Fife

The Salt Lake City International Airport is pleased to welcome Ron Fife as the new Airport Division Fire Chief. Chief Fife comes to the airport with 38 years of experience with the Salt Lake City Fire Department. Following in his family’s footsteps, Chief Fife says firefighting is in his blood, as his father Robert Fife served as a Salt Lake City firefighter for 33 years.

Ron Fife started his career in February of 1977 at Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 8. Over his 38 year career Chief Fife spent 25 years as a paramedic, five years as a Captain and has eight years as a Chief. Additionally, he has been involved with the Heavy Rescue Team (HRT), Training and Apparatus, and Medical Services Departments. Chief Fife enjoys serving at busy fire stations which makes him the perfect fit for the diverse work at the airport.  When asked what he enjoys most about serving in the Salt Lake City Fire Department is, he says “the camaraderie. I love being part of a team and helping people.”

Fire Chief Fife

In addition to his work with the Fire Department, Chief Fife has also spent the last 25 years as a counselor, co-director and mentor for the Utah Burn Camp. This is an issue in which Chief Fife is deeply passionate, as he emphasizes that those he helps are “burn survivors not victims”. The Utah Burn Camp is held twice a year, and brings burn survivors from throughout the Intermountain West to help them with healing and recovery. Because of his leadership and commitment to the cause, Chief Fife was recently asked to serve as the Director of the National Burn Camp in Washington, D.C.

In his personal time, Chief Fife loves spending time with his wife of 35 years Karin, their six children and nine grandchildren (grandchild number ten is on the way). Some of his other pastimes include camping, boating, reading, traveling, and watching movies with his family in their home theater.

Chief Fife has a clear passion for the fire service, the people that he works with, and the community he serves. He is excited for his new position and the opportunity to work with the Salt Lake City Airport – and we are lucky to have him. Welcome, Chief Fife!

Salt Lake City International Airport Names New Police Chief

On July 1, the Salt Lake City Department of Airports selected Craig Vargo to serve as Airport Police Chief. Chief Vargo is the first to rise through the ranks of the department to serve in this important position.

Chief Vargo

From Left to Right: SLC Operations Director Randy Berg, Airport Police Chief Craig Vargo, former chief Steve Marlovits and Airport Executive Director Maureen Riley.

Chief Vargo has 27 years of law enforcement experience, 25 of those at Salt Lake City International. Vargo has served as captain for the past 13 years, with oversight of policy, personnel, labor negotiations, operations, and budget decisions. In addition, Vargo has worked as an undercover narcotics task force officer, patrol officer, bike patrol officer, investigator, certified defensive weapons instructor, and Airport Assistant Public Safety Venue Commander for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Chief Vargo has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Weber State University in Criminal Justice, where he graduated with honors.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the FBI Command College, the University of Utah Law Enforcement Leadership Program, the West Point Leadership program, and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Certified Member Program.

Born in Salt Lake City, Chief Vargo currently resides in Layton with his wife of 22 years and two of their three children. His personal interests include camping with his family and participating in Spartan Races.