A chat with LAWA executive

Gina Marie Lindsey was appointed executive director of Los Angeles World Airports in June.

LAWA is a branch of the city of Los Angeles that oversees operations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), LA/Ontario International Airport, Van Nuys Airport and Palmdale Regional Airport.

Lindsey, who brings 16 years of airport management experience to her new post, shared her thoughts recently about what's ahead for the aviation authority:

Question: How did you end up at your new post as executive director of LAWA?

Answer: Mayor (Antonio) Villaraigosa called me and said he was looking for someone to run LAWA ... I was working as a lobbyist and consultant on aviation issues in Washington, D.C., representing different airports and airlines, and TSA - primarily for the funding of baggage systems.

Q: What will it mean for LA/ONT if the Pacific Gateway Cargo Center project is approved?

A: It means we've got a group offering to put up the money to put the facilities in place and, because they would be putting up the money, they would be focused to bring in air cargo activity.

Cargo can be a stepchild. Passengers are noisy and glamorous, and they have an emotional experience when they travel. Parcels don't say much, but they can be really important to the growth of an airport.

Q: Why is LAWA developing a landing fee incentive policy at LA/ONT?

A: We recognize when a passenger carrier comes to start a service in a market that might be iffy - we're building the market here, but it doesn't have the density of LAX - it's a little bit of a risk.

And airport costs here are higher than some other Southern California airports because of recent capital improvements. So, if we can share some of that risk, it gives them a little bit of a leg up.

Q: What major tasks are ahead for you and for LAWA?

A: There are three things we're going to concentrate on:

First, building relationships with our tenant base, internally and externally ...

We inevitably are in a partnership with our tenants. We provide the facilities, but we're nothing without the carriers.

There's a natural tension between tenants and landlords. But, by and large, we should have open communication, so we're energetically working through these tensions.

This is more of an issue with LAX. We need to untangle some of the litigation we're in, and work on a path forward.

Second, building the airports ...

At LAX, we need to rehabilitate the terminals and the infrastructure, which is literally falling apart.

At Ontario, it's about building the market.

Third, building a high-performance organization ...

We've become quite a bureaucracy over the years because we're part of the city government and organizations have a lot of I's to dot and T's to cross and various procedures to go through that has added incredible lead time to actually doing anything.

We need to strip some of the time lag out of the process, be clear about what we expect of employees, and hold folks accountable.

Q: There's been an increase in plane incidents recently in this area. Do you have an idea why?

A: You might be referring to an FAA administrator, who was leaving office and mentioned a concern of runway incursions nationwide.

An issue at LAX is we're wrestling with a 1960s airport and a 21st-century fleet of aircraft is gradually getting purchased. And in many cases, they're longer, with a wider wing span, and with winglets.

In very cramped quarters, these incremental changes can use up the margin of safety. So, we're constantly looking at any technological improvements to be sure we have the latest.

Q: Any last comments to the readers of this region?

A: No. 1, we love the fact that there's so much appreciation of how important aviation is to the economy in this part of Southern California. With that, there's the opportunity to grow this place.

Also, I'd encourage people who want to see greater service in Ontario to fly Ontario.