San Jose’s City Council this week gave a tentative green light to revisions in the long-term master plan for Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) that could eventually give the facility a third terminal, more gates, a new hotel, and thousands of additional parking spaces. A final vote on the plan is expected in March.

In the past three years, SJC has recorded a 26 percent increase in passengers, making it the fastest-growing large airport in the nation, and planners expect that rapid growth to continue in the years ahead. In the newest overhaul of its master plan, the airport will extend its planning horizon from 2027 to 2037, a year when the facility expects to handle 22.5 million passengers annually, up from 15.7 million in 2019 – a 43 percent increase.

Last year, SJC cut the ribbon on a $58 million Interim Gates Facility, which attached new aircraft gates 31-36 to the south end of Terminal B. That project was expected to give the airport some breathing room for growth over the next five to seven years, but the revised master plan calls for SJC to eventually grow to a total of 42 gates; its current statutory limit is 40 gates. The long-term plan would incorporate the interim gates along with several new ones into a new Terminal C, along with additional retail and food and beverage outlets. That would increase the airport’s overall gate count from 36 to 42.

While passenger numbers will likely continue to rise, the number of flights at SJC probably won't increase as much over the long term. According to a memo from airport planners to the City Council, “The number of passenger airline operations (aircraft takeoffs and landings) in 2037 will essentially be the same as currently projected for 2027 due to trends toward larger aircraft and higher load factors.”

Don't miss a shred of important travel news! Sign up for our FREE bi-weekly email alerts

In any case, "even with adding eight temporary aircraft gates, the number of passengers per gate remains high and there are challenges to accommodate the growing demand with current airport terminal facilities,” airport officials said in the memo. “Additionally, we risk artificially constraining airline activity and new routes due to congestion and delays without addressing the demand through initiating a new capital program.”

If you are wondering just how crowded SJC can get, check out our recent SFGATE post about stultifying waits at airport security for early morning flights: Long lines, hassles at the crack of dawn at the airport. 

The revised SJC plans also call for an additional 11,000 parking spaces for the airport – 5,000 short-term and 6,000 long-term.

SJC is already trying to cope with a chronic shortage of parking capacity. In October, the City Council approved the immediate addition of 900 spaces to Economy Lot 1, a long-term parking facility. “With a record number of passengers traveling through SJC every day, parking is at a premium as spaces continue to fill on a regular basis,” an airport spokesperson said. In 2019, “the Economy Lot 1 has reached 100 percent capacity 36 times over a three-month period, including the closure of all parking lots for seven consecutive hours over the Columbus Day weekend.”

Some critics have alleged that the city isn’t doing enough to limit airport-related carbon emissions as it grows, but planners say that at least 10 percent of the spaces in the new parking garages will be for electric vehicles, and the mayor’s office is weighing a plan to reduce airport fees for airlines that use cleaner fuels, and eventually to promote the use of electric-powered aircraft for short flights as they become available.

The proposed new 330-room on-site airport hotel, with a total of 300,000 square feet, would be located close to the planned Terminal C.

Have you used or switched your flying to San Jose lately? What's the experience like? Sound off in the comments.

Read all recent TravelSkills posts here

Chris McGinnis is SFGATE's senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don't miss a shred of important travel news by signing up for his FREE biweekly email updates!