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Portland International Airport

Portland International Airport is the largest airport in the U.S. state of Oregon, accounting for 90% of passenger travel and more than 95% of air cargo of the state. It is located on the south side of the Columbia River in Multnomah County, six miles by air and twelve miles by highway northeast of downtown Portland. Local transportation includes light rail on the MAX Red Line and Interstate 205 for autos.

PDX has direct connections to major airport hubs throughout the United States, plus non-stop international flights to Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and The Netherlands. It is also a hub for flights to smaller cities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California and Nevada. General aviation services are provided at PDX by Flightcraft. The Oregon Air National Guard has a base located on the south side of the property.

PDX is a major hub for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, located on Concourses A, B, and C. PDX also serves as a maintenance facility for Horizon Air.

The most prominent airlines at PDX are Alaska Airlines (including Horizon Air) (34.1%), Southwest (17.4%), and United Airlines (12.9%).

PDX was identified as the top airport for business travelers in the United States in the October 2006, October 2007, and October 2008 issues of Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Research for the article identified the airport's easy access (including light rail service), shopping and free wireless Internet access as factors leading to the selection.


  • 1.2 million passengers per month (New Record,14,654,222 passengers in 2007)
  • 23,000 short tons of air freight per month
  • 19,000 commercial flight operations per month in 2007
  • Non-stop commercial air service to 16 of the 17 most populated US Metropolitan Statistical Areas
  • Voted best airport for business travelers in the United States in 2006, 2007, and 2008 by Condé Nast Traveler.

The terminal

The PDX terminal consists of one building roughly "H"-shaped that is divided into five concourses. Concourses A, B, and C are on the south side of the terminal and concourses D and E are on the north; the two sides are connected beyond security checkpoints by an elevated walkway opened in August 2005.

Inside PDX there are postal services, free WiFi wireless internet access, playroom, retail stores, restaurants, and bars.

Some food services located in the terminal are Beaverton Bakery, Booya Juice, Caper's Café, Coffee People, Cool Temptations, Good Dog/Bad Dog, Gustav's Pub & Grill, Jamba Juice, Jumping Jelly Beans, Laurelwood Brewing Co, Panda Express, Pizza Schmizza, Pizzicato, Quiznos Subs, Riverfront Café, Rose City Café, Rose City Wine Bar, Sandoval's Fresh Mexican Grill, Stanford's Restaurant and Bar, Starbucks Coffee, Wendy's, and Widmer Pub.

Retail stores include Aria, Brookstone, Creative Kidstuff, Hudson News, InMotion Pictures, Made in Oregon, Nike, Columbia Sportswear (coming Fall 08), Powell's Books, Relax Station, Spirit of the Red Horse, The Oregon Pendleton Shop, The Paper Station, The Real Mother Goose, You Northwest Travel Mart. Many of these are located in a shopping mall behind the ticket counters. Businesses are not allowed to charge more than at their other stores and, as Oregon has no sales tax, they offer tax-free shopping.

Smoking is prohibited everywhere on the grounds except in designated smoking areas outside the terminal entrances.

Airlines and destinations

The airlines and destinations are up to date as of October 2007. The airport's official website has the latest information.

Concourse A

  • Alaska Airlines
    • Horizon Air (Boise, Burbank, Eugene, Fresno, Klamath Falls [ends October 11], Los Angeles, Medford, North Bend/Coos Bay [ends October 11], Oakland, Ontario, Pasco [ends October 27], Pendleton [ends October 27], Redding, Redmond/Bend, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver)

Concourse B

  • Alaska Airlines (Anchorage, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Los Cabos [seasonal], Orange County, Palm Springs [seasonal], Phoenix, Puerto Vallarta [seasonal], San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA))

Concourse C

Concourse D (International)

Concourse D handles all international arrivals (except precleared flights from Canada) and the following departures:

A section of Concourse D was renamed to honor Oregon's Governor Victor G. Atiyeh also known as Trader Vic.

Concourse E

Business Aviation terminal (adjacent to Flightcraft)

Cargo Operations

City airport history

Portland's main airport has been in two other incarnations. The first was on Swan Island, now used by the Port of Portland for industrial parks, and the second was the 1940s–1950s configuration on the present site known as the "super airport". The third and present configuration was first known as "The International", but is now known as PDX in all common and most official usage.

Swan Island Airport

In 1925 aviation proponents proposed an airport for Portland on Swan Island, northwest of downtown Portland on the Willamette River. The Port of Portland purchased 256 acres (1.04 km²) and construction began in 1926. Although the airport wasn't completed until 1930, Charles Lindbergh flew in and dedicated the new airfield in 1927.

By 1935 it was becoming apparent to the Port of Portland that the Swan Island Airport was becoming obsolete. The small airfield couldn't easily be expanded, nor could it accommodate the larger aircraft and passenger loads expected to become common to Portland. Plans immediately were conceived to relocate the outdated airfield to a larger site.

Swan Island Airport was officially named Portland Airport until the opening of the new airport.

Portland-Columbia "Super Airport"

The present PDX site was purchased by the Portland City Council in 1936. At the time it was 700 acres (2.8 km²) bordered by the Columbia River in the north and the Columbia Slough in the south. The city council issued US$300,000 and asked the Port of Portland to sponsor a US$1.3 million Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to develop the site into a "super airport". The project provided badly needed Great Depression-era jobs and was completed in 1940. The airport was designated Portland-Columbia Airport to distinguish it from then-operating Swan Island Airport.

During World War II the airfield was used by the United States Army Air Force .

The "super airport" featured a terminal on the north side of the property, off Marine Drive, and five runways (NE-SW, NW-SE, and an E-W runway forming an asterisk). This configuration was adequate until a new terminal and a longer, 8,800 ft. east-west runway were constructed in 1952.

In 1948 the entire airport grounds were flooded during the Vanport Flood due to its proximity to the Columbia River and very low elevation, forcing scheduled airline services to reroute to nearby Troutdale Airport. The grounds remained covered entirely in water for several months.

International status and expansion

A new terminal opened in 1958, which for the most part serves as the present facility. The new terminal is located to the east of the original runways, and north of the then-new 8,800 ft. runway. Construction of a second east-west runway to the north made this a midfield terminal. At this point, all but the NE-SW (3/21) runway in the original "X" were abandoned and turned into taxiways. 3/21 was extended for use as a cross-wind runway. "International" was added to the airport's official designation after the 1950s-era improvements.

Plans made in 1968 to add a third runway by means of filling in parts of the Columbia River were met with vocal public opposition and scrapped. In 1974 the south runway was extended to 11,000 ft. to service the latest jumbo jets.

By the 1980s, the terminal building began an extensive renovation in order to update PDX to meet future needs. Concourse E was first to be reconstructed, and featured PDX's first moving sidewalks. The Oregon Marketplace, a small shopping mall, was added in the former waiting areas behind the ticket counters.

The early 1990s saw a food court and extension added to Concourse C, and the opening of the new Concourse D. This marked the first concessions inside secured areas, allowing passengers to purchase items without having to be re-screened.

An expanded parking garage, new control tower, and canopy over the curbside were finished in the late 1990s. Although hailed by architectural critics, the canopy blocked views of Mount Hood from the curbside. Also, the garage addition collapsed while under construction, killing a worker.

The present, rigid H-shape of the PDX terminal was completed on September 102001 when the new A, B and C concourses, as well as the light rail line, were finished. Probably the most stunning portion of PDX's interior, the new concourses reflect a Northwest theme, focusing heavily on the nearby Columbia river. A huge celebration was to be held the following weekend, but the events of September 11, 2001 interceded. The new concourses, designed to be public spaces, were closed to non-passengers.

In the fall of 2005, the elevated walkway connecting the north and south concourses inside the secure area opened.

International service

Until the Asian stock market plunged, Delta Air Lines used Portland as a gateway to Asia with extensive service. International travel decreased even further due to complaints about treatment at the immigration facility in Portland, leading it to be called "DePortland". The combination of these factors caused Delta to discontinue the last direct flight from PDX to Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT) and Nagoya in March 2001. This change brought local media scrutiny, which, when combined with the resulting Congressional pressure, caused those in charge of the immigration facility to address the problems.

Meanwhile, local travel businesses had begun recruiting other carriers. Lufthansa started direct flights to Frankfurt, Germany, on March 312003. Northwest Airlines introduced non stop flights to Tokyo (Narita Airport) on June 10, 2004. That flight will continue onto Busan beginning May 31. Mexicana Airlines also introduced service to Guadalajara, Mexico and Mexico City. After 5 years of service between PDX and Mexico, the service was cancelled by Mexicana Airlines on May 2, 2008, due to high fuel prices and change in demand. This change left Alaska Airlines as the only airline with nonstop services to Mexico. Northwest Airlines announced on October 9, 2007 the expansion of international service with new nonstop service to Amsterdam that began on March 29, 2008.

Future plans

Although some plans have been studied to either replace or relieve PDX traffic, planners continue to prefer expansion. Salem, Oregon's McNary Field (SLE) and the Port of Portland's Hillsboro Airport (HIO) in Washington County have been suggested as future relievers. Between 1993 and 2007, Salem's airport was without scheduled airline flights. With resumption of commercial flights on June 72007, the airport has planned terminal improvements using a preconstructed modular building. Base material has begun to soften around eighteen supporting joints beneath the west third of the south runway due to aircraft landings. The port considered shutting the runway down at night for repairs and opening the runway during the day as would normally be done. However, this would require the rehabilitation be spread over a four year period. Due to the weakened joints, the runway must be repaired before the end of 2011, which could not be done using the four year strategy. Since more aircraft require the full length runway than could be accommodated by the next longest runway, the port has proposed expanding the north runway. If approved, the north runway is tentatively scheduled to be extended between May and November 2010. This will allow for the south runway to be closed the following year for resurfacing. By closing and working on the entire runway at once, the port estimates the rehabilitation of the south runway will cost 40 percent less than working at night only.

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