Monthly Archives: May 2010

DHS Eliminates I-94W Form for Visa Waiver Passengers

In a statement issued today, ACI-NA President Greg Principato said:

“ACI-NA has been urging DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and predecessor agencies for a number of years to eliminate the burden on travelers of completing the paper I-94W form, as CBP already receives the passenger data electronically. Eliminating the I-94W form makes it easier for passengers traveling to the United States and enhances the security of personal information—a win for travelers and the U.S. Government. We welcome DHS’s efforts to improve the travel experience and recommend that it also eliminate the I-94 form for nonimmigrant passengers with visas.”

Click here to read more.

Thanks for Recognizing Airports’ Role in NextGen Administrator Babbitt

By Chris Oswald
I was very pleased to see the news media’s coverage of FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt’s speech on May 18 regarding airports and their role in the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) development.

FAA Administrator Raddy Babbitt

FAA Administrator Raddy Babbitt

Speaking at the American Association of Airport Executives’ Annual Conference & Exposition, Babbitt noted “NextGen starts on the ground and it starts on the ground at the airport.”  He went on to explain how a variety of NextGen operational improvements will help airports meet the mobility needs of the communities they serve in an environmentally responsible way.  He also noted that NextGen needs to extend beyond the air traffic control system and address how we can enhance the efficiency of air transportation from curb-to-curb.

The Babbitt’s remarks echo ACI-NA’s view that NextGen begins and ends at airports.  It’s always refreshing to hear from FAA that NextGen is about more than deploying new air traffic control technologies.  Rather, it’s about providing all of the stakeholders in the National Air Transportation System with better tools to manage congestion, reduce delays, and minimize its environmental footprint.

This said, there were a few points that the administrator didn’t make in his speech that are worth emphasizing:

  • For airports, NextGen isn’t just about what’s happening on the ground.  We also need to be “at the table” in the development and evaluation of new flight procedures—be they RNAV/RNP, GBAS, or LPV.
  • While it is important to focus on the system-wide environmental benefits that NextGen will provide (e.g., reduced fuel burn through use of optimized profile descents), it is also important for airport operators and the FAA to understand how NextGen flight procedures may alter local environmental impacts—particularly noise impacts—due to either the increased concentration of flights along RNP/RNAV corridors or redesigned flight procedures.
  • Airports and the FAA need to work together to finding innovative ways to fund needed NextGen capabilities at airports and reduce regulatory and institutional barriers to their implementation.  This is particularly important as we extend NextGen beyond the airside to terminals and ground access facilities.  Using an example the Babbit used in his remarks, providing ultra-high speed rail links between city centers and airports is a great concept, but will require substantial capital investment and involve significant institutional and regulatory issues.
  • As anyone who has followed the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s efforts to bring “regular-speed” transit to Washington Dulles knows, these issues can take years of dedicated effort to resolve.  At ACI-NA, we believe that to begin addressing these issues we need to start with robust, multi-year FAA reauthorization legislation that includes an increased PFC cap.

Thank you Adminstrator Babbitt for recognizing airports’ key role in NextGen.  I think I speak for the airport community when I say we’re looking forward to implementing it with you.

Summer Travel Forecast

The Air Transport Association (ATA) is predicting a “modest” increase in the number of passengers that will take to the sky this summer. Between June 1 and Aug. 31, the ATA has forecasted that about 202 million passengers will travel globally on U.S. airlines—about 1 percent more than the 2009 summer travel season.

Although the increase is slight, airports are looking forward to the increase in passenger traffic. Some airports are rolling out some new programs and initiatives:

  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport will have newly expanded ticket counters, security check-in, consolidated rental car facility, and expanded baggage claim carousels.
  • Oakland International Airport has also launched the new Premier Parking product which allows customers to park within “footsteps to their flight” and pick up a complimentary bottle of water and a newspaper as they head into the terminal or pick up their car coming home.
  • In mid-summer Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will unveil a new digital concierge program, enabling travelers to search for and obtain information specific to their needs at the airport.
  • Mineta San José International Airport will have all new concessions with its modernization program, and most will be in place, up and running, by the end of June with 40 new shops and restaurants in Terminals A and B.

Other airports have been working steadily during the economic downturn to be ready when growth returns, performing needed facility maintenance or rehabilitation, or other projects that enhance safety. Why? The need for new airport infrastructure to meet the demands of future air traffic is substantial. There are also a number of airports that desperately need to modernize and repair aging infrastructure to ensure passenger safety and customer service.

This is why it is so important to have critical financial tools in place, such as an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap.  Airport infrastructure investments will be challenged to continue without raising the cap to $7. Due in large part to the devaluation of the PFC because of construction cost inflation, the current $4.50 level doesn’t allow airports the financial resources necessary to invest in improvements that ultimately benefit the traveling public. The modest PFC increase is included in the House FAA Reauthorization bill and an increase in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding is included in both the House- and Senate-passed bills.

It is important to remember that these resources are also important to enable the FAA to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system and make airfield capacity-enhancements at airports.

While ATA’s predictions are for small growth in the short term, FAA and industry consultants do expect more robust increases as the economy recovers.  Airports know that they have their work cut out for them; but if provided the necessary resources, they will be able to provide the safety, capacity and efficiency improvements that passengers will demand.

2009 Traffic Numbers Released

Airports Council International (ACI) in Geneva has released its full 2009 traffic report. Nearly 1.46 billion passengers arrived and departed from North American airports in 2009—a 5.9 percent decrease from the previous year. Cargo decreased by 11.3 percent while total operations also decreased by 8 percent.

“The economic downturn that plagued many industries in the past two years has not spared aviation. Airports, however, are optimistic about an increase in traffic as the economy begins to show signs of recovery,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato.

“Industry forecasts indicate that, despite a sluggish recovery, demand for air travel will grow. There is still a critical need for airports to invest in infrastructure projects to meet future demand. The system nearly bogged down three years ago and current traffic is not far below that level. We know what the breaking point is and we must not wait to get to work.”

Click here to view the highlights.
Click here to view the final 2009 North American traffic summary data.

JFK’s Runway Project Up Close

Posted by Chris Oswald
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity Monday to visit John F. Kennedy International Airport to see the progress that’s been made reconstructing one of the longest runways in the world—14,572-foot Runway 13R‑31L.  As part of this reconstruction project, JFK’s owner—the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—is also widening the runway from 150 feet to 200 feet, enhancing exit taxiways, and upgrading marking and lighting systems.  I want to thank to Patty Clark, Jim Steven, Tom Bock and John Selden for making arrangements for my visit.

jfk milling 5-10-10The runway reconstruction itself has involved milling the existing asphalt concrete runway pavement and placing an 18-inch Portland cement concrete “overlay” atop the existing runway alignment.

A key aspect of this the project involves how the Port Authority has worked with its contractors, the FAA, and airline partners to minimize the impacts of the runway construction project on airfield operations.  Even prior to construction activities, JFK consistently ranked as one of the three most delayed airports in the United States.  The Port Authority realized that with the construction project, the JFK would lose 25 to 50 percent of its already constrained runway capacity, depending on wind and weather conditions.

jfk traffic 5-10-10The work to minimize these impacts began during the initial planning and design of the reconstruction and drove an aggressive 120-day schedule for reconstruction of the western two-thirds of the runway.  The Port Authority also worked closely with the airlines serving JFK—including the airport’s primary domestic carriers jetBlue, Delta Airlines (and its regional airline partners), and American Airlines—to manage their Spring 2010 flight schedules in accordance with the reduced capacity of the runway system.

The Port Authority also worked with the FAA and its airline partners to proactively manage aircraft surface operations to minimize airfield congestion, taxiing delays, and fuel burn.  To do this, the Port Authority turned to tools and coordination mechanisms that it already had in place to manage delays during irregular operations (e.g., snow events).

jfk ops center 5-10-10Since the closure of Runway 13R-31L in March, the Port Authority has been providing centralized ramp control and taxi-out metering services from a dedicated facility in its Airport Operations Center.  The staff at this facility collaborate with airline ramp control facilities, station managers, and flight operations centers in real-time to ensure that aircraft are held on or near their gates until they have departure “slot” available.  What was clear during my visit is that the effective operation of this “collaborative surface management system” depends much more on the humans in system than the technology.  The system at JFK only works so long as the disparate and, often competing, airlines agree to accept some level of delays in the interest of preserving better efficiency for all.