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Southwest Looks For Legroom at Lambert’s Terminal 2

The airline has already exhausted all gate space in the former "East Terminal"
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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

calhoun2 Michael Calhoun
A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - It’s not necessarily a bad problem to have: overcrowding at Terminal 2 at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Earlier this month, Southwest flyers reported having to stand outside, for up to two hours, to get through the TSA security checkpoint. Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said that particular situation was due to winter weather delays and was an isolated case.

“[Southwest] got hammered with some challenges that Midway was having with a lot of their customers being stuck,” she explained. “So that was really more on the processing side than with the airline.”

But security lines are notoriously longer in Terminal 2.

Hamm-Niebruegge said the elimination of baggage scanners in the lobby will open up space — carriers will start accepting baggage at check-in — and Lambert is looking at potentially adding another Terminal 2 security checkpoint to meet demand.

“That is one of those terminals that was designed with a short front lobby, so you don’t have the expanses of space like you do in an older terminal, like T-1,” she said.

Southwest is, by far, the largest carrier at Lambert.

RELATED: Exclusive: Southwest Airlines Hopes to Grow in St. Louis >

“If they want to expand,” Hamm-Niebruegge said, “we have places to expand.”

The airline has already exhausted all gate space in Terminal 2 (known for years as the “East Terminal”) and is grabbing gates in the adjacent, empty Concourse D, although those gates are still given an “E” designation.

D is the connection between Terminals 1 and 2 and, as a legacy of its glory days as a busy concourse for Trans World Airlines’ hub, it has moving sidewalks. KMOX’s Michael Calhoun asked Hamm-Niebruegge if that length could be opened up so to allow flyers to pass security in Terminal 1 even if their flight departs from 2.

“We always look at the open of re-opening D, and we will do so if there’s a need and a demand,” she said.

She said such a decision would likely rely on Southwest expending additional resources to open check-in facilities in both terminal buildings.

Other delays have hit Southwest fliers before they even think about passing security or getting to the gate. The short-term parking garage in front of Terminal 2 is a typically a hot ticket. Hamm-Niebruegge said it used to be routine for the garage to fill-up most days of the week.

But in March, the airport authority raised rates in an effort to encourage those just “picking up” to hang out in the free cell phone lots instead. Hamm-Niebruegge said that strategy has worked and spots are much more available.

Contact reporter Michael Calhoun: mrcalhoun@cbs.com; @michaelcalhoun

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