Monthly Archives: February 2012

Kneaded by TSA

By Stephenie Brooks
Faced with the prospects of an eight-hour total travel time—including flight time and layover—what passenger wouldn’t welcome a free massage? But who would expect if from TSA? That’s right. You read it correctly: TSA!

While traveling over the weekend from an airport in the Mountain States, I was the recipient of this unexpected treatment. After going through the AIT, I stepped aside while my gumby image cleared. I was then asked if a female TSA agent could check my hair. I was surprised, but didn’t make a fuss. At six-feet, the agent had to stand on her tippy toes to check my hair. Luckily for her, I was not wearing my customary 3-inch (minimum) heels. After three quick kneads to my scalp it was over. “Free head massage,” she commented smilingly as I grabbed my bags and headed to the gate.

Sitting in the departure lounge thinking about the incident, I smiled. At least I hadn’t been kneaded south of my neck nor did I have to warn her not to “touch the junk in my trunk.” However, I did wonder if in this part of the U.S. whether or not people were used to seeing dreadlocks. (In case you don’t what they are or look like, here’s an image). In a more cosmopolitan city, my dreadlocks don’t even warrant a second glance. But then again, neither would I have received a free head massage . . . compliments of TSA.

After doing some research and talking with a security expert, I learned that in certain cases a travelers’ hair or headwear could potentially conceal items, and may need to be screened by TSA Transportation Security Officers. The TSA Blog  and public Web site provided some useful information about the reason I received a free massage.

The Budget Blues, FAA Style

By Jane Calderwood
On Monday the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget was released (a week late, but I digress).  The budget, as anyone who has worked in Washington for more than one fiscal year knows, is not worth the paper it’s printed on.  It’s dead before it even arrives on Capitol Hill.  Not only is the President’s budget dead on arrival, Congress has only managed to pass a budget resolution four times in the last 30 years  – 1995, 1997, 1989 and 1977 – though they are required by law (one they passed by the way) to have a budget approved by April 15.

Well, when you look at what’s in the President’s budget, you may think that’s a good thing. While Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted in a phone call with transportation stakeholders yesterday that the budget provided for “robust infrastructure investment,” I politely disagree. After all, as ACI-NA President Greg Principato noted in his press statement on the budget, the FAA’s airport budget was simply recycled from last year.  What makes it almost funny is the fact the budget calls for the Airport Improvement Program to be cut to $2.4 billion in exchange for an increase of the Passenger Facility Charge for large and medium hub airports.

I know you are thinking this is what a lot of airports have been talking about this being a good option so why should this be a problem? Three reasons:

1) The Obama Administration has not supported the PFC increase despite this provision being in their budget last year as well.  The fact is that neither the transportation department, nor the president have the authority to increase the PFC, only Congress does. And Congress, in its infinite wisdom, chose not to.  And nobody – not a soul – at the FAA, the DOT or the Obama Administration ever raised their hand or put in a good word for an increase in the PFC.

2) The FAA Reauthorization bill that the President signed today has no PFC increase in it, and it cuts AIP from an authorized level of $3.9 billion to $3.35 billion. This bill was passed a year ago by the Senate and eleven months ago by the House and neither chamber included a PFC increase so it was pretty clear there wouldn’t be one in the bill, yet the Administration either didn’t follow the bill or simply doesn’t care that airports have no authority to raise their PFC beyond the current statutory $4.50 ceiling.

3) Just because the budget is dead on arrival doesn’t mean there won’t be members of Congress on both sides who will pick and choose budget cuts they agree with and offer them up in the appropriations committee.  That’s right, there is nothing to stop a member of the House or Senate from standing up to offer an amendment to cut AIP to $2.4 billion claiming it is what the President requested in his budget – it is the truth after all.

When I asked LaHood during the stakeholders’ budget call why they included this provision in the budget despite the issues I’ve cited above, I didn’t get much of an answer. All he did was assure me that the President was expected to sign the bill. The department’s CFO, Chris Bertram, explained that DOT wouldn’t support a cut in the AIP that was not accompanied by a PFC increase. The answer, while appreciated, doesn’t help airports pay the bills.

Principato Talks U.S. Airports at JITI Seminar

By Morgan Dye

This afternoon Greg Principato addressed the Japan International Transport Institute (JITI) at their Airport Seminar 2012, themed: Maximizing the Potential of Multiple Airports in a Region.

While underscoring his point that economic development has been closely tied to transportation which supports travel and trade, Principato addressed the importance of airports as an economic driver in their local communities, international air service and US entry and VISA procedures.

He also seized the opportunity to talk about the infrastructure investment that needs to be made at airports across the United States as demand increases. Greg concluded his speech with this: “We also know there is work to be done at home, e.g.  increasing and improving airport infrastructure in order to accommodate increased demand. We have urged Congress, the President and all the various committees and commissions looking at ways to cut the deficit and promote growth to remove the federal, Nixon-era shackles on airports and give U.S. airports the same freedom our competitors have to invest in their future. But that is a whole other speech.”

JITI’s mission is to conduct comprehensive research of contemporary transportation issues and make recommendations regarding United States and international transportation policies for the public welfare. In addition to Principato’s overview of the situation at US airports, today’s speakers focused on airports in the New York region in the United States, and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan.

Airports Helping Airports Pays Off

By Tom Smith
As the first anniversary of the Feb. 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Japan approach, the funds that were raised in a joint “Airports helping Airports” effort have been fully distributed. ACI-NA, ACI World, ACI Asia-Pacific and American Association of Airport Executives raised just over $48,800 in contributions.

The “Christchurch Earthquake Airport Employee Relief Fund” has raised $16,161, which was transferred to Christchurch Airport in the second half of 2011. The money was distributed to its impacted employees.

The “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” has raised $32,648 and the fund was transferred to Sendai Airport just before Christmas. The funds were distributed to seven airport employees whose homes were swept away in the tsunami. Thank you letters (both in the original Japanese and English translations) from some of the aid recipients are attached.

The former neighborhood of a Sendai airport employee.

“Thank you once again for your generous support and donations,” wrote Patti Chau, Regional Director, ACI Asia-Pacific, who helped coordinate the distribution. “At the commencement of the New Year, I would like to wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012 and may natural disasters and perils be away from us all in the years to come.”

Since ACI and AAAE first teamed up to provide assistance after Hurricane Katrina; almost $410,000 has been donated by the airport industry for airport employees in the Gulf States, Haiti, New Zealand and Japan.