Atlantic City International Airport may finally soon live up to its full name after three new gates open sometime this summer, with two of those gates set up to handle commercial international flights.

Construction on the $25 million, 75,000 square-foot expansion and renovation of existing gates is expected to be complete by fall, but the new gates that can handle international service could open by the end of July or early August, South Jersey Transportation Authority Deputy Executive Director Samuel Donelson said during a media tour of the new facilities Friday.

Much of the new facilities are still under some amount of construction and delays have occurred because of unexpected circumstances, Donelson said. However, a new baggage claim area already is in use and workers last week demolished the old baggage claim area in order to rebuild the area into a two-story building.

Donelson said that the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which owns the airport, has been in talks with airlines regarding bringing international flights to the regular schedule, but that the authority was not ready to make any announcement. He said that an announcement could come by the end of the year.

"We're in conversations with Spirit Airlines and other airlines about accepting some international diversions, whether it's from Newark International or Philadelphia International. That's a good first step." Donelson said. "The next question is scheduling international service and we're having conversations now."

Atlantic City International Airport already handles chartered international flights, but has not had the capacity to handle commercial international flights. The new gates allow the passenger separation needed for the U.S. Customs and the border patrol.

The new facilities can handle up to 200 passengers an hour, Donelson said. A typical Spirit Airlines Airbus 320 plan can hold up to 178 passengers, he said.

SJTA also has an additional expansion in its master plan for the airport, with the pavement for a new wing already in place. However, Donelson said, there currently are no construction plans. "We always have our eye toward the future," he said.

Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said that the expansion to make the airport capable of accepting commercial international flights means that travelers from abroad could use the airport as an alternative to those in New York and Philadelphia.

"We would be an idea airport for that kind fo traffic," he said. "In the mean time, it's very important to have the capability and the ability to handle the flights in the near term. It's another significant upgrade to the airport."

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