Monthly Archives: December 2009

International Aviation Issues Seminar this Week

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released a report that showed international visitation and international visitor spending was down significantly in August 2009 compared with the same period a year ago. According to the DOC, 5.4 million international visitors traveled to the United States in August 2009, a decrease of four percent compared to August 2008. International visitors spent $10 billion in August 2009, nearly 21 percent less than visitors spent one year ago.

With this news in mind, airport and airline management, government officials and consultants will meet at the 2009 ACI-NA International Aviation Issues Seminar this Thursday, Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C., to discuss current challenges facing international air travel and trade.

Among the issues to be discussed will be the state of international airlines alliances, government air transport policies and negotiations, and facilitation policies and procedures impacting airports’ ability to retain and secure new international air service.

Here’s a taste of what to expect:

  • Keynote: Christa Fornarotto, deputy assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs, Department of Transportation
  • Roundtable Discussion on Alliances
  • Incentives: What’s Legal; What Works?

Click here to view a list of sessions and speakers. Hope to see you there!

ACI-NA: Funding for Airport Infrastructure Projects Promotes Economic Growth

Airports Council International-North America President Greg Principato sent a letter to the newly formed bipartisan Congressional Jobs Now! Caucus urging lawmakers to include funding for airport infrastructure projects in the Caucus’s upcoming discussions.

Principato said that the improvement of airport infrastructure not only helps increase safety for the traveling public, but it also is an investment in the future of our national transportation infrastructure system and helps creates jobs.

The FAA reported that by June all but $5 million of the $1.1 billion appropriated by the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding included in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) had been authorized to 323 separate projects throughout the United States. These projects have created positive short- and long-term effects on communities by providing local jobs and opportunities for economic growth.

In addition to job creation, Principato stressed that further investment in airport infrastructure would allow the industry to take a step forward in preparing for NextGen, which begins and ends at the airport.

NextGen—It’s Airport-Centric

I had the opportunity to attend the House Aviation Subcommittee’s hearing regarding the Next Generation Air Transportation System—or NextGen—on Oct. 28.  The hearing dealt specifically with the findings of the RTCA NextGen Task Force, which concluded in September. I am pleased that airports were featured prominently during the hearing.

As background, the Task Force was formed in February at the request of the FAA to (1) develop an industry consensus regarding NextGen operational capabilities that can be implemented in the near- and mid-term futures (i.e., by 2018), (2) prioritize these capabilities, (3) identify the actions that industry stakeholders, the FAA, and others need to take to implement them and where these actions need to be taken, and (4) identify steps that can be taken to expedite these actions.  The Task Force—which was composed of a broad cross-section of aviation stakeholders—enumerated steps that can be taken by the aviation industry to expedite the implementation of NextGen.  It also took a detailed look at the business case behind proposed NextGen capabilities and prioritized capabilities that promise high benefits at reasonable cost.  ACI-NA served as the primary representative of the airport community in Task Force efforts; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also participated directly.

As those of you that attended our NextGen session at ACI-NA’s 18th Annual Conference know, ACI-NA firmly believes that NextGen begins and ends at airports.  This message was echoed in the testimony presented by RTCA President Margaret Jenny and FAA Air Traffic Organization CEO Hank Krakowski at the hearing.  Both Jenny and Krakowski noted that the Task Force’s recommendations were “airport-centric,” with specific focus on improving the efficiency of surface, runway, and terminal airspace operations.

Stating that NextGen “doesn’t have an on-switch,” Krakowski also acknowledged that the implementation of NextGen will be an evolutionary process that will be achieved incrementally as newer-generation aircraft equipped with NextGen technologies enter the fleet.

Witness Dr. Gerald Dillingham of the Government Accountability Office cited a few critical challenges associated with NextGen.  From my perspective, the most important among these for airports is the challenge that local environmental issues—primarily noise issues associated with altering flight procedures and redesigning airspace—pose to the full realization of NextGen benefits.

Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI) both complimented FAA for engaging a broad range of industry stakeholders in the Task Force, and encouraged the FAA to incorporate the recommendations into its ongoing work efforts.  They also encouraged FAA to continue its close coordination with the industry—including airports—as it moves forward. Krakowski committed to do so.

Two of the most memorable statements of the hearing came from House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN).  In the first, Chairman Oberstar stated that the development of NextGen needs to be accountable to those that are paying for it—namely U.S. air passengers—which are funding the system through their ticket taxes.  In the second, the Chairman emphatically encouraged passage of FAA reauthorization noting that without it—and the funding increases it includes—NextGen benefits won’t be realized.
-Chris Oswald, VP, Safety & Technical Operations

Airports and MIT Global Airline Consortium

It is a lovely day at Boston Logan Airport, which is the location from which I am writing this blog.  I just left my first meeting of the MIT Global Airline Consortium. ACI-NA is the newest member of the Consortium, which also includes the Air Transport Association, Air Canada, Amadeus, Boeing, Lufthansa Airlines, Boeing and SITA.  Today we were briefed on 10 research projects currently underway, covering many issues of importance to airports and the aviation industry. 

As you might expect, much of the discussion centered on delays and improving the U.S. air traffic management system. But we also talked about the implications of Congressional proposals which would mandate that airlines provide passengers the option to deplane if there was a three hour delay on the tarmac. Dr. Amy Cohn of the University of Michigan (MIT graduate) is leading this research and I was pleased to hear that she not only recognized the importance of obtaining the airport industry perspective (through ACI-NA). Further, she had already arranged a meeting with Jim Crites, of DFW Airport. Jim has been an industry leader on this issue, providing much of the information included in the airport section of the DOT Tarmac Delay Task Force report released in December 2008.

I served with Jim, Ben DeCosta/ATL, George Doughty/ABE and Brad Penrod/PIT on the DOT Task Force and continue to respond to numerous press calls on this issue.  Travelers remain concerned and the fact that tarmac (taxi out or in) delays of more than three hours are a very small fraction of airline delays does not assuage their fears.  That became even more obvious to me over the last week.  Frankly I was blown away by the number of people who called me after seeing my interview in the article by Chris Elliott in the Washington Post Travel Section on October 25.  Chris initially called ACI-NA to find out if passengers should call 911 if they were trapped on an airplane.  The answer is no and I suggested that if passengers want to make a call to help resolve the situation, it should be the airline as they have the ability to take action.  While airports stand ready to offer assistance in deplaning passengers, we do not have the legal authority to order the airline to return to the terminal.  It was a good conversation and clear that Chris really wanted to provide assistance to his readers. 

At the end of the day, the answer is to not only respond effectively to the small number of extended tarmac strandings, but to work hard to prevent them.  I am hopeful that some of the research undertaken at MIT, funded in part by airports and airlines, will help.
-Debby McElroy, EVP, Policy & External Affairs

ACI-NA Supports President Obama’s Plan To Review Aviation Security

Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International-North America, commended President Obama for today ordering the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to review “screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel.”

“ACI-NA several months ago initiated an industry/government effort to review current procedures and policies,” said Principato. “This type of review is needed and, I believe, reform in the basic statute enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is overdue.”

Airports strongly support the president’s call to focus on moving toward a more technology intensive security regime. ACI-NA believes that advanced technology is critical for a more secure and efficient system. Whole Body Imaging is an important component for an effective system and airports look forward to working with DHS, TSA, airlines and Congress as security and privacy issues are considered.

“I also wanted to thank the thousands of airport, airline, DHS and TSA employees that have worked tirelessly since Christmas Day to respond to the terrorist incident and keep the traveling public safe,” said Principato.

See related blog by Greg Principato.