By Andrew Adams (Deseret News) -- SALT LAKE CITY — Delta Air Lines plans to expand operations and services at Salt Lake City International Airport in the coming years, airline executives told the Salt Lake City Airport Board on Wednesday.

Over the next five years, Delta plans to increase its Salt Lake City capacity by 8 percent, increase departures by 1 percent to 2 percent and make the airport an “all 2-class operation” by 2017, according to the airline's formal presentation.

Delta President Edward Bastian went before the board to outline the plans.

Newly minted Salt Lake City Airport Board Chairwoman Natalie Gochnour, also the chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber, suggested the move would only serve to improve the city and state’s business prospects by making Utah that much more accessible and easy to visit.

Already, Salt Lake City International Airport is considered to be one of Delta’s primary hubs and a “gateway” to the Intermountain West.

“I was shared data (Wednesday) that shows that we have a level of service that’s much more like a San Diego or a St. Louis, and we are a much smaller metropolitan area,” Gochnour said.

The schematic design for the airport’s rebuilding is close to completion, she said, and construction is expected to begin on the project by June, beginning with the new rental car facility.

That would be a later start than a timetable released previously by the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, which called for the construction of that structure to begin in 2013 and conclude in 2014.

Gochnour said the formation of the new one-terminal alignment will take place over 10 years, and she doesn't expect anyone to begin using any of the new facilities until 2019.

“We’re going to have a brand-new crown jewel of an airport,” Gochnour said. “It’s going to be great for our state.”

Travelers seemed optimistic about the changes.

Peter Vandenboom, of Winter Haven, Fla., applauded the plan for the new design, as well as for Delta’s plan to give all flights in and out of Salt Lake City a first-class option.

“I would welcome that because I was just cramped because we booked last-minute tickets,” Vandenboom said. “I sat in the back, and usually I like to sit up front.”