The new U.S. Departures area opened at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) Saturday.

The new terminal is about 1.2 kilometers long and will have the capacity to serve up to 10 million passengers.

Officials said the expansion was needed as they have seen an 11 per cent growth in U.S. traffic over last year.

"Our traffic to the United States has been growing phenomenally," Airport president and CEO Reg Milley told CTV News.

"Even when the economy went down we saw the United States traffic – traffic to and from the United States – continue to increase."

EIA now has 12 non-stop destinations to the U.S, he added.

The new area adds about 11,000 square meters of new space to the airport and features an expanded customers and border protection area.

There will also be six gates dedicated to flights heading to the U.S., workstations and plug-ins, a play area for toddlers and a video game station.

Milley was able to get a unique prospective on the new terminal as he flew into the airport from Denver late on Friday night.

He said he was feeling apprehensive at first.

"I just hope everything goes okay and the bridge comes out to the plane right and we get everybody off okay," he said.

He explained that it was nice to see the passengers enjoying the new terminal.

"Just looking around and saying wow this is really nice. That was really, really special for me."

It was also special for Sharron Humford.

Her father was the first person to take an international flight from the airport after it first opened.

Although he had passed away a few months ago Humford said she had been invited as a special guest to the official opening.

"He would have been so proud to be here," she said, describing the terminal as beautiful.

"Now we're in an A-class."

EIA's Expansion 2012 project was budgeted at just over $1-billion but Milley said they have managed to save on costs since the conception of the plan.

"We're bringing the whole thing in at about 25 per cent less than that."

He credits the staff and timing for the lower costs.

"Prices were coming down when we were starting to build and we were able to take advantage of those."

The work was a combined effort by MMM Group, PCL Construction and Stantec.

Work began in October of 2009.

Some of the new terminal's highlights include terraced roofs that open up the airport for natural light as well as plants on a wall that were added to enhance air quality in the building. The plants will be hydroponically-fed, which means the roots are placed in a water and nutrient liquid rather than soil.

For more information on EIA's Expansion project visit their website.

With files from Amanda Anderson