ACI-NA Chair Talks Issues

Working with TSA; airline consolidation; foreign ownership

ab: Is is safe to assume, considering you came from Pensacola, that you had an established relationship with Delta?

Miller: Obviously, that was our number one carrier. I would like to take the credit for that, but I really think it’s Delta looking at a very strong business approach to this part of the country.

It’s a recognition on their part that San Antonio has a very good mix of demographics.

We have a huge military presence, with the Army and the Air Force — sort of the same thing with Pensacola. When you have a large military presence that is doing a lot of schooling and training, that gives you a steady flow of passengers. And San Antonio has a huge convention/conference market. It’s a good mix.

ab: As you look ahead as the ACI-NA chair, what are some top goals that are high on your agenda?

Miller: We had a brief meeting with John Pistole, the TSA Administrator, and what I said to him was, as you move forward ACI-NA wants to work with TSA on a strategy moving forward. I was hearing from him how TSA wants to move forward in the next five to ten years. ACI-NA wants to be a part of that.

We start the thing strategically — how do we address security issues? Then try to put in place those things that can be done and create the base so that as things happen, we can react in a positive way.

ab: That idea of strategic partnering has been almost a theme at this year’s conference.

Miller: I think so. We had the opportunity to speak with Secretary Napolitano this past January. ACI created a security task force; I’ve been chairing that. It was the message back then — let us work with you. How can we improve the experience for the passenger? Are there ways to speed up the process?

ab: Were you surprised that during the most recent debate on FAA reauthorization, access to Reagan National again surfaced as an issue?

Miller: You have to understand that MWAA [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority] has its own needs. Reagan National is a very finite piece of property. It will be a recurring theme with Reagan — the ability to get more slots. We have made it quite clear that San Antonio would love to have direct non-stop service into Reagan. We have talked with our Congressional people.

The Washington metro area is the top market out of San Antonio.

ab: What does the impasse on FAA reauthorization mean to you as an airport director?

Miller: The impact that it has is uncertainty. How can we plan for multi-year projects when we really don’t know if the program is in place for the next three years, or is it just another continuing resolution? Years ago, we had multi-year reauthorizations. That helped us to plan effectively. We’re basically entering into an agreement, a leap of faith, with the FAA that, yes, we’ll allow you to move forward with your project and there will be money, sometime.

That’s the real issue. It’s causing us to plan betting that the program will be there. I would love to see a five-year reauthorization; know that won’t happen.

We also need to pass a PFC that is at $7.50 rather than the $4.50 we’ve been living with. We’re losing the power of the dollar with the PFC. The PFC is really the opportunity for airports to find a way to fund projects long term. We can leverage the PFC; we can issue bonds; do a multi-year program right up front.

We can help control the airlines’ costs with PFCs, and do an even better job if they recognize that increasing the PFC is not a detriment to them. It can be used to help leverage a lot of projects that don’t go into their rate base.

ab: Again regarding airline mergers, what are your thoughts regarding foreign ownership regulations?

Miller: I do think we need to re-look at cabotage; I think that is a way for us to deal with our airlines continuing to consolidate. Allow a foreign flag carrier to fly point to point in the U.S.; there have to be reciprocal agreements as well. I think at some point foreign ownership and how that can help U.S. carriers has to be considered.

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