REGAINING A HANDLE Security is pervasive as airports prepare to meet at AAAE in Dallas By John Boyce, Contributing Editor May 2002 FINDING WAYS TO AVERT CONGESTION After a couple of aborted attempts to alleviate congestion...

Callister reports that his airport is in the middle of a $2.5 billion construction program. Revenues, however, are off "fairly significantly," he says. "Actually, even before the September events we noticed that the business traveler was backing off and we were looking at ways to cut our budget. I think we cut $4 million out of our '01 budget already before September 11.

"Last year we cut out almost $200 million in construction that had been planned by the end of the year. This year we cut out about $300 million out of the 2002 construction program."

In Tucson, Allin reports that while she is going ahead with some development projects, others will have to wait. "We have taken a step back to make sure that what we're doing fits with current circumstances," she says." Our project was financed prior to Septem-ber 11. There are other projects that we're deferring and delaying for financial reasons or due to uncertainties."

Restricting the secured areas beyond the security checkpoints to passenger-only has created an unforeseen difficulty for some airports, particularly for those whose concessions are inside the secure area. Many airports have lost concession revenue because meeters and greeters have to wait outside security. Parking revenue has also been affected because more people are being dropped off, are taking public transportation, or not being allowed to park near the terminal because of FAA restrictions.

"What we've found," says Steven Grossman, director of aviation at Oakland International Airport, "is that in addition to closing about 500 spaces close in near the terminals, (because) meeters and greeters are not allowed past the checkpoints that people are getting much more dropped off and picked up. ...Overall, I'd say our revenues are down 1 to 2 percent over this time last year."

The restrictions of meeters and greeters has also led to many of them going to baggage claim. That's caused some congestion, but at least at Minneapolis/St. Paul it has caused a new demand for concessions. "The baggage claim has become the new meeter and greeter area,'' reports Callister at MSP. "As such, people are looking for amenities down there. They want a coffee shop; they want a comfortable place to wait; they want information - things in baggage claim you traditionally didn't have." Consequently, Callister is working with his main concessionaire to develop amenities in baggage claim.

While capacity has been moved out of the spotlight recently, it is still a significant issue, particularly for Roy Williams, director of aviation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Internation-al Airport. Williams says that within this decade he expects Armstrong to handle close to 13 million passengers. At that point he expects significant airfield delays and an unbearable strain on terminal capacity.

"The traffic at New Orleans has been growing steadily since 1993," Williams says. "It's up about 50 percent over that period of time and to address the continuing growth of traffic we need to develop an additional air carrier runway and, as you know, air carrier runways are one of the most challenging and controversial things that airports do as they expand."

The difficulty is exacerbated in New Orleans because the proposed site is on swampland and that touches on a plethora of environmental issues, not least of which is wetlands replacement, the movement of levies, relocation of railroad rights of way, and home relocation. The location also increases the cost of the construction.

Capacity is a problem sometime in the future for Kent George, the director/CEO of the Allegheny Airport Authority, which governs Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County Airport. But he has seen operations increase due to the change in mix of aircraft at Pittsburgh, a major hub for US Airways and he, like many other executives, has had to expand the number of checkpoint lanes to handle the slowdown in throughput.

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