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How the trek to SLC's B gates compares to other airports


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SALT LAKE CITY — You've probably heard the stories of how big and modern the new Salt Lake City International Airport is. And you've most likely also heard about the dreaded B Gates. Not so much the gates themselves, but that big yellow sign indicating where your unofficial hike is about to begin.

"It's a big walk," Salt Lake City resident Danny Stevens said with a laugh.

"It is a long walk. It is a long walk," said Bill Parkinson, who also lives in Salt Lake City.

"It's a very long walk, especially with as old as I am and such," said a woman traveling from Salt Lake to Nebraska.

Some call the mid-course tunnel between the A and B Gates the "Pioneer Trek," simulating the 1840's pioneers who crossed the midwestern plains to get to Utah. There's even artwork of wildlife along the way.

No matter what you call it, Bill Wyatt has heard them all.

"It's a bigger place for sure," he said.

Wyatt is the director at the Salt Lake City International Airport. He is proud of all the accolades and awards the new airport has received, but he is also aware that the walk is what people always talk about.

For example, this past October, the airport posted on its Facebook page about a new spa-type business opening, and the comments are mostly, "After the hike to terminal B, you better offer oxygen."

Bill Wyatt, director of the Salt Lake City International Airport, talks to KSL. He says the current configuration at the airport is not ideal but also is not permanent.
Bill Wyatt, director of the Salt Lake City International Airport, talks to KSL. He says the current configuration at the airport is not ideal but also is not permanent. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL-TV)

Or, on a Nov. 7 post about some artwork, the comments included this and many similar statements: "We're all too exhausted from pushing a wheelchair 47 miles to our gate."

"People have strong opinions about airports, particularly home-towners, right? And so, I get that," Wyatt said.

It may feel like 47 miles, but really, how long is it? We decided to do the trek and go over maps provided by the Salt Lake airport.

It turns out, the walk to the farthest B-Gate is 3,350 feet, which is roughly 0.64 miles. The mid-course tunnel is about 1,200 feet, which measures about a quarter-mile.

No doubt, those distances can be difficult for the elderly and less-mobile. Salt Lake provides carts within the tunnel for travelers who need it. When compared with other airports, however, Salt Lake's longest walk isn't the longest in the country.

People walk to their gates at Salt Lake City International Airport. The walk to the B gates is not the longest compared to other airports KSL checked.
People walk to their gates at Salt Lake City International Airport. The walk to the B gates is not the longest compared to other airports KSL checked. (Photo: Tanner Siegworth, KSL-TV)

In Denver, airport managers say curb to the farthest terminal gate — C67 — is 8,040 feet. That's nearly a-mile-and-a-half, but it includes the use of moving walkways, escalators and trains. The actual maximum walk is less than that, so distances on which airport is farther depends on how you measure.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal did an extensive report on airports, measuring things such as Wi-Fi speeds, restaurant options and parking availability. One metric that was measured was maximum walking distance.

At the time of the report, Minneapolis was No. 1 at 0.83 miles. Las Vegas was No. 2 on the list, followed by Charlotte, Miami and JFK. And then, at No. 6, Salt Lake City at 0.64 miles.

Phoenix, our neighbors to the south, came in eighth, for a maximum walking distance of 0.61 miles, but managers came up with an idea to help break up the walk for some passengers.

"The Sky Harbor Fitness Trail was part of the 'Fit Phoenix' initiative," said Heather Shelbrack, a spokeswoman at Sky Harbor Airport.

The trail features several markers in a terminal where you read a sign and look at the window to see it, such as the Buttes at Papago Park, Piestewa Peak and even the Phoenix skyline.

"We want to highlight everything Phoenix has to offer, and this is just what Phoenix has to offer (that) you can see from the airport terminal windows," Shelbrack said.

Perhaps that's something Salt Lake could do in the future to show off the Wasatch Mountains, the downtown skyline, or even the Kennecott Copper Mine. However, in two years, our long walk will be reduced to about a quarter-mile, once the central tunnel is built. It'll take you straight to the B gates right after security.

"I think that will make a real substantial difference," Wyatt said.

The central tunnel couldn't be built first because it would've cut through the old airport's D and E gates while they were still operating. Constructing a new airport on the same site while operating the old airport has been tricky.


The current configuration isn't optimal, but it's also not permanent.

–Bill Wyatt, airport director


The central tunnel opens in 2024 and will offer moving walkways, as well.

In the future, when the C Concourse is built, plans are in place to have a train in the central tunnel.

"We're a big city now," Parkinson said.

Until then, we all must do the longer walk.

Recently, the airport put new signs in the current tunnel, saying things like, "Doctors recommend 10,000 steps a day. We're just looking out for your health," and, "Let's call it cross-training for ski season." It's a way for airport managers to try to keep things light while knowing there is a lot of criticism.

"I don't take it personally at all. I understand it," Wyatt said. "The current configuration isn't optimal, but it's also not permanent."

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