"There are opportunities with customers we do business with in other cities," says Ankrom, who is confident that there are at least 10 carriers to go for in the current market. "There is room for four handlers going after those 10. We don’t want them all, as we know that in this area we couldn’t get the staff, but would like to go in for a couple with a full package and let the chips fall where they fall."
The whole ground handling community will wait with interest for the airport’s word later in the year.
San Francisco may have a new international terminal which is a credit to the city, but airport officials are still likely to be looking out nervously into the Bay. For the airport needs a new runway as badly as it needed a new international terminal building. It is hard to see how the forecast 51 million passengers by 2006 can be accommodated without it.
Several options are on the table--many of which envisage building out into the bay--but they are currently stuck in environmental reports and an additional runway is unlikely to appear for another 5-10 years.
San Francisco is what might be called an ATC "active" airport, and delays are common. As soon as San Francisco gets a little bit of its famous weather, movements drop from 60 an hour down to 30-35. "We have to selectively cancel to try and protect customers and shrink the delays on the schedule," says Ray Klinke at United.
"In the five years that I have been here at international the minimum number of what we would call ATC days has been 200 per year. It has been as high as 240, or two out of every three days."
Such statistics will weigh heavy on the airport’s mind. It will also be mindful of how some carriers, such as American Airlines, are growing their service more at San Jose just 40 miles down the road. And then there is Oakland, due east across the Bay.
Indeed, as GSE Today went to press, Southwest
Airlines announced it will pull its operations from San Francisco on March 5
and relocate most of its flights to Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento airports.
Southwest currently has 14 departures a day from San Francisco. Eight will relocate to Oakland International Airport and two to Sacramento International Airport. Orange County, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas will also each receive one additional daily departure.
Southwest Chair Herbert D. Kelleher cited lack of route profitability as one reason for the move as well as, perhaps more tellingly, the fact that operations into and out of the airport "produce a disproportionate number of flight delays rippling across our system."