Inside the Fence

Jan. 4, 2010

Some points of business, and a sincere tribute to one of our own ...

Hardy Acree, who heads up this issue’s cover story, relates, “I think I probably worked with the best trio in the business — Jim DeLong in Philadelphia; Gina Marie Lindsey at Anchorage; and Paul Gaines/Rick Vacar at Houston.” The man is right ... that is an impressive resume.

On the subject of airports all but assuming responsibility for customer service with airline passengers, he comments: “We don’t always control the outcome. So everything that we can control through that process we do with the recognition that providing customer service that is second to none helps to distinguish and set us apart from our competition.

“We spend an inordinate amount of resources on maintaining the approach into the airport to where it’s country club standard. It’s the first impression that customers have. If we can build up that ledger of goodwill or positive impressions, as they go through that transformation process and interact with the Skycaps or the ticket agents — there’s not as many of those anymore — or they interact with the TSA — there’s a lot more of them; none of those three do we control.

“Our strategy is that after they have gone through those interactions and they go into the food court or to their gate, they have a positive impression.”

* * *

During the interview with Ken Allison for this issue’s Business Profile, the discussion turned to the fact that at two of his airports — Lafayette, LA and Asheville, NC —they charge a percentage flowage fee, rather then a cents per gallon rate.

Offers Allison, “When the price went up, it really cut into our margins. It’s a double-edged sword for the airports too, because they get a false sense of revenue stream and everybody is looking at them cross-eyed when that revenue stream drops off because the cost of fuel goes down.

“I think the better number is the cents per gallon.”

* * *

Nineteen aviation trade associations sent a letter to aviation powerhouse Representatives James Oberstar and John Mica. The message: Implementing NextGen can “provide a platform for domestic job creation.” Good thought.

Some hard numbers in the letter: General aviation activity has decreased 35 percent, and employment at GA companies has fallen 50 percent; air carriers have cut 155,000 jobs since 2000.

Of course, they’re writing to a Congress that at press time was preparing another continuing resolution for FAA/system funding. But then, Messers Oberstar and Mica can’t be blamed for that (it’s the Senate).

* * *

Ed Stimpson, the long-time head of GAMA and a man with another impressive resume, passed on recently. He was a gentleman, and one who had an impact. The revival of the light aircraft business should historically be known as the Ed Stimpson Revival.

Thanks for reading.