Fast-Growing Palm Springs Airport Launches Master Plan Process

Credit: Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images

California’s Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) will begin developing a new airport master plan with an initial focus on determining the future of its aging passenger terminal.

The process for developing a master plan for the airport, located 130 mi. east of Los Angeles International (LAX), will take 30 months, according to PSP. It will begin with a presentation at a Feb. 28 public meeting of the Palm Springs Airport Commission.

The airport is in the midst of rapid growth, handling just under 3 million passengers in 2022—the most annual passengers in its history and 16.3% above the previous record set in 2019, according to statistics provided by the airport. The number of seats offered by airlines at the airport in 2022 totaled 3.6 million, also a record and up 22.8% over 2019.

Palm Springs International is served by 12 U.S. airlines flying to more than 30 airports in the U.S. and Canada, though about half the routes are seasonal. Southwest Airlines began serving the airport in November 2020 and now offers the most routes from PSP with flights to eight destinations including seasonal services.

The airport is located in the Coachella Valley, a desert region known for resorts attracting leisure travelers and hosting a popular annual music and arts festival. Its passenger terminal was opened in 1966. The airport has two runways.

“The airport master plan is a comprehensive look at the entire airport facility and its potential over the next two decades,” the airport says in a statement. “The plan will … consider short-, medium-, and long-term efforts to improve circulation, address constraints and elevate the customer experience.”

The planning, design and construction firm Mead & Hunt, selected by Palm Springs International to lead the master plan effort, will open the process with a presentation at the Feb. 28 commission hearing. 

“Public participation is essential to creating an airport master plan that serves the entire community,” PSP Executive Director Harry Barrett says. “Whether attending the airport open houses, commission meetings or using our digital communications channels, we encourage everyone to tell us how they envision the future of Palm Springs International Airport.” 

The airport adds the “immediate focus” will be on examining the existing airport terminal and its future. While improvements are needed, the airport says it wants to maintain the integrity of the 1960s-era architectural design as much as possible. The terminal is a three-level, three-concourse facility. 

“Other project focuses include an updated passenger demand analysis, a financial implementation analysis and a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis of the plan’s final list of proposed projects,” PSP says. 

The airport adds it will regularly provide updates on the master plan process at airport open houses and public Airport Commission and Palm Springs City Council meetings.

The planning process will be primarily funded by a federal grant awarded via the infrastructure legislation passed by the US Congress in 2021.

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.