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STL Reopen, Operating After Devastating Tornado

Days after a tornado ripped through Lambert-St. Louis International (STL), the airport is back up and running.

The twister on April 22 caused the airport to suspend all inbound and outbound flights. By late Saturday, the first arrivals were landing at STL; by Tuesday, the airport said it was operating a full schedule and that all 13 airlines were up and running.

There is significant damage to the C Concourse, which normally houses AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Cape Air and Frontier Airlines, as well as about a dozen concessions; the concourse will be closed indefinitely. The airport has relocated Frontier and AirTran to the B Concourse, and American and Cape Air are operating out of the D Concourse.

“We give tremendous credit to Ameren for restoring service to Lambert so that the airport could open just 24 hours after the devastating tornado,” says Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge. “Thanks also has to go to the numerous crews and workers who have worked with the airport to clean up and make emergency repairs to get where we are today.”

The airport is also working with concessions to move them into unused space in other terminals. Six food and beverage locations, operated by HMSHost Corp., five retail concessions, operated by The Paradies Shops, an InMotion BookMark Express and an airport shoeshine were in the now-closed C Concourse. A food court opened Tuesday for D Concourse passengers, and some grab-and-go kiosks were also set up.

“The airport and our partners have made restoring concessions to our newly re-opened concourses one of our highest priorities,” says Hamm-Niebruegge. “For the first few days, we’ve installed grab-and-go food and beverage kiosks. Now we’re working on how to re-open existing concession space in those concourses to bring more permanent restaurant and bar service, gift shops and specialty retail to our passengers.”

It is too early to tell how much it will cost to repair the damage caused by the tornado. Officials say inspections over the coming weeks will give them a better idea of the extent of the damage, but cost is estimated to be “in the millions.”

Injuries from the tornado were said to be minor, and officials credit Transportation Security Administration and airport staff for bringing people away from windows and into bathrooms and lower-level areas.

In other STL news…

This spring, the airport will be among one of the destinations offered by an airline that caters specifically to pets.

Pet Airways of Delray Beach, Fla., will begin service to STL over the summer. IT is the only airline specifically designed for the safe and comfortable transportation of pets, or as it calls them, “Pawsengers.” The animals are continuously monitored by an in-flight Pet Attendant in a climate-controlled cabin.

“This is a unique airline that obviously has growing support across the country for those who want to make custom travel plans for the transportation of their pets,” says Hamm-Niebruegge. “We look forward to working with Pet Airways on the final arrangements so the airline can begin service here.”

Reservations will begin later this spring.