The board that runs Lehigh Valley International Airport approved a contract for 54 full- and part-time workers that will include cash bonuses if the airport reaches 1 million in passengers in lieu of larger wage hikes.
The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which held its monthly meeting Tuesday, also approved a raise in airplane hangar rental rates at Queen City Airport in Allentown.
The airport authority offered the cash bonuses as part of the contract because the employees will receive wage increases that are below the rate of inflation, which is running at an annual rate of 7 percent in the Lehigh Valley. The airport's maintenance workers, custodians and parking attendants will receive an average weighted raise of 1.8 percent for each year of the three-year contract. The workers, who are covered by Local 773 of the Teamsters union, will each receive a $1,000 bonus if 1 million passengers fly to and from the airport within a 12-month period during the contract. Part-timers would receive a pro-rated bonus.
The workers will receive a second $1,000 bonus if the airport subsequently reaches 1.1 million passengers in a 12-month period during the life of the contract. It's the first time the airport has included cash bonuses for airport performance in labor contracts.
Airport traffic has been on a downward trend at LVIA for more than a year, following the departure of carriers serving the popular Florida market and a falloff in service by the more established airlines. Passenger volume fell 18 percent last year, after surpassing 1 million passengers in 2004.
George Doughty, executive director of the airport authority, said the workers were willing to accept a "modest" wage increase because they know many airlines are struggling to survive, and are not adding new destinations or more flights here. Two of LVIA's top airlines, Delta and Northwest, are in bankruptcy.
Doughty said he is hopeful he will need to pay the bonuses because it will show the airport has recovered.
"I am happy to share the rewards when times are good," he said.
The airport authority will raise rents for hangars by 10 percent at Queen City Airport, which serves small, privately owned aircraft. The rents were last raised in 1996. Airport officials said the authority refrained from raising the rents because of improvements it wanted to make. It recently added 43 new hangars at Queen City. The airport will net an additional $9,201 a year from the rent increases at Queen City.
In other news:
At its meeting Tuesday, the airport authority also said opening arguments in its court case against Hooters Air will be heard today. The airport filed suit against the airline in March in Lehigh County Court to recoup about $1 million in unpaid bills, mostly for fuel. The defunct airline was run by the same company that operates the popular, restaurant chain known for its buxom waitresses.
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A committee of the airport's board reconsidered the viability of Lehigh Valley Air, which flew briefly in 2005, as a way of boosting air service at LVIA.
Passenger volume crept up 0.5 percent in January to 55,315, compared to the same month in 2005.
Among complaints are dwindling passenger volume, plane capacity.
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