AB: As you know, more and more airports are being called on to take care of the customer experience. What do you think of the changing airline/passenger experience?
Principato: The airports have really stepped into the breach; we’re not going to let our passengers sit there hungry and tired. There’s never been a meeting between airports and airlines to discuss this, but it’s very real. And it’s probably a permanent aspect of air travel now, that the bulk of the customer service needs are going to be undertaken by the airports.
AB: Along the way, it seems the time has come for somebody to standardize the check-in process. Right now with the airlines, it’s all over the board.
Principato: A lot of airports would like to move toward more of a common use approach. The airlines see this as a branding issue. But if you’re starting to get 70-80 percent of your passengers who are never going to go to that ticket counter, maybe that’s not where you’re going to brand yourself.
I think it will become pretty standard in most places.
AB: There’s much talk about the environment and new regulations, from cap and trade to airport runoff. What are your major concerns?
Principato: Our big environmental issue and concern right now is the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a proposed rule on deicing runoff; we don’t think its workable. We’re working very hard to educate them, to educate OMB [Office of Management and Budget], on what would actually work at an airport. It will be a joint industry effort, working with AAAE and the airlines on it.
We’re also keeping an eye on a proposal to change the Clean Water Act. If you ask any group of airport managers, what’s the day to day environmental issue that they deal with, it’s noise.
AB: Which leads to Burbank, which spent millions for a Part 161 study to try and get FAA’s approval to limit Stage 3 operations.
Principato: Burbank certainly has the right to pursue that under Part 161. They’ve got a lot of community pressure there. Last year we wrote a letter to support them.
AB: Anything else on the environment?
Principato: Greenhouse gases are a concern. It’s interesting; Congress got going on that before health care; now it looks like they might not be able to get that done.
On an international level, the airlines, airports, and manufacturing industry really have come together to say, if there’s going to be a regime on greenhouse gases it should be a global regime. It shouldn’t be one region or one country. If there are any revenues generated from it, it should be put back into aviation.
Also, I don’t think the environmental benefits of having a modern air traffic control system have ever been touted enough.
AB: How confident are you in FAA’s ability to get NextGen implemented?
Principato: Two things I think we have today is the industry actually now does want something to happen; the airlines understand why they need it, as does GA [general aviation]. Another part of the problem is all the silos at FAA. It’s not just that the industry didn’t have its act together in the ‘90s; all along as a bureaucratic matter it was very difficult.
And I do think the President genuinely wants NextGen. It’s the one aviation issue I’ve heard about at every level of the Administration.
... and that is certainly the case with President Obama’s proposal announced on Labor Day to invest in U.S. roads, railways, and airports. A phone conversation with Greg Principato, president...
The Bush budget plan fails to provide enough dollars to fund the industry's capital needs.
The Bush budget plan fails to provide enough dollars to fund the airports' capital needs.