When the project was announced in 2011, the initial cost was US $45 million. That sum was increased to US $75 million by May 2013, and during the terminal’s opening ceremony on Thursday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Paula Frederick Hunte quoted the final cost at nearly US $98 million.
Despite the cost, however, tourism stakeholders expressed high hopes for the new facility.
“This facility, at a cost of approximately US $98 million, is one we can all be proud of, and I am confident will help ensure the bright and successful future of Antigua & Barbuda,” she said.
Projected to be able to process up to two million passengers per year, the new airport will not only service the 18 existing operators at VC Bird International, but also the three new carriers that will be making the inaugural flights to the new terminal during the 2015 winter season.
Jet Blue will begin service from JFK on November 5, Air Italia from Milan on December 13, and Seaborne Airlines form Puerto Rico on December 20.
According to Aviation Minister, Robin Yearwood, the new terminal will play a pivotal role in the country’s economic development with amenities like the first class executive lounge.
“This modern structure gives us the potential to make Antigua & Barbuda a trade hub and boost visitor arrivals from the region, as well as from premier international tourist markets,” he said.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne called the new terminal a monument that has connected generations past and present.
“Just as previous generations left us their legacy facilities that were relevant and innovative in their time, our generation has moved our country further with the current modern terminal,” he said. “When the inhabitants of our twin island nation-state look at this airport terminal, they can do so with a strong sense of accomplishment and of patriotism.”
Meanwhile, CEO of the Antigua Barbuda Airport Authority Stanley Smith also addressed the opening ceremony where he expressed his excitement that the terminal had been completed.
“The Antigua Barbuda Airport Authority has waited three years for this historic moment. Finally, we can exhale,” he said. “Today ABBA welcomes the people of Antigua & Barbuda to the new VC Bird International Airport.”
The three-year construction period, which Smith described as short, involved a great deal of the work from a dedicated team. He detailed some 120 site meetings, 90 building hours, and over 300,000 man hours’ worth of work before the building, which broke ground in November 2011, was completed in July 2015.