PITTSBURGH — As 55-year old Frank R. Miller, A.A.E. was taking over as chair of Airports Council International-North America during its annual meeting here this fall, his crew back at San Antonio International was putting the final touches on the airport’s new Terminal B. Miller is director of the San Antonio Airport System, which includes historic Stinson Airport, a reliever.
During the conference he sat with airport business to discuss issues facing the industry. Here are edited excerpts ...
airport business: What’s the latest on your capital development program?
Miller: We are in the home stretch on that program. Terminal B is scheduled for first flight, as we refer to it, for November 9. Then we’ll close down the old terminal.
The night before we’ll do the major move of both Continental and American from Terminal 2 to Terminal B.
ab: You’ve been through this before at Pensacola. Did you bring any ‘lessons learned’ with you?
Miller: The lesson really is the coordination. We meet weekly on activation plans, which is leading us up to the point with the airlines when we know they will take up the majority of our attention with the final move. It really is identifying and working back from your opening date to establish the timeframes, who is responsible for what, coordinating with TSA, and providing everyone an update.
ab: And how’s the upgrade of Stinson going?
Miller: We’re pleased with the extension of the runway to 5,000 feet. The Civil Air Patrol relocated their regional headquarters from Waco to Stinson and have entered into a long-term lease with the airport. They will build a hangar there.
We are now planning a master plan RFP for Stinson. As the south part of San Antonio continues to grow, Stinson can become part of that. The Toyota plant for the Tundra and Tacoma trucks is very close to Stinson. How can Stinson help with those operations? We’ll have the ability to take a hard look at Stinson.
ab: Among hot issues for airports is airline mergers, with the latest bringing together Southwest and AirTran. How are the mergers affecting your operations?
Miller: One of the benefits for us with the United/Continental merger is we’ll be seeing the relocation of the United operation into Terminal B, which I think will be a significant advantage for us as we deal with the balancing of the two terminal buildings. If you look at the schedules of the two carriers, they really complement each other. As the merger proceeds, I don’t see a lot of negatives for San Antonio.
We went through the same type of exercise with Delta and Northwest. It was a very seamless transition for us. It may offer us some opportunities to get additional non-stop service.
Southwest, of course, is a major presence in San Antonio. We like to brag that the first Southwest flight was from Dallas to San Antonio. AirTran has been in San Antonio about two years. They and Southwest currently both offer non-stop service to Baltimore or Orlando; but AirTran is offering non-stop service into Atlanta as well.
The real question will be, will Southwest continue to provide some service for us to Atlanta? I think we’re one of the fortunate airports that can say it will be an easy transition for us.
A lot of the smaller cities are left to wonder what is in store for them. That’s a topic of conversation with everybody right now.
ab: Has the bankruptcy issue at Mexicana affected your market?
Miller: Some of the other carriers have offered the same service. Again, San Antonio happens to have that kind of a market where we’re able to weather some of these issues. By circumstance, Delta is offering on a Saturday-only basis non-stop service to Cancun. We’re waiting to see if that will transition into more service into Mexico.
Delta is the first domestic carrier for us offering non-stop service to Mexico. Delta’s been taking a hard, and what we think is a very positive look at San Antonio. We recently began non-stop service to JFK; Cancun starts in February; they increased seat capacity to Atlanta and Salt Lake City.