Inside the Fence

May 8, 2001

Inside the Fence

By John Infanger, Editorial Director

May 2001

You think you have a handle on reality, and then someone starts a discussion about airline mergers ...
Jeff Stanley, manager of regulatory analysis for United Airlines, offered the following to managers at this year’s AAAE National Air Service Confer-ence in Milwaukee: The United-US Airways-American "transaction ensures the preservation of competition."
Counter that with consultant Michael Boyd’s "third-grade math" equation: United minus US Airways equals one less airline.
United is apparently incorporating new math into its employee training program.
At the same meeting, Jim Bennett, executive VP/COO for the Metropoli-tan Washington Airport Authority, observed: Nobody really knows what the true demand at LaGuardia or Reagan National airports is because of slots. The question is, how do these airports get from slot-controlled to open market airports?
Meanwhile, Kitty Freidheim, managing deputy commissioner for planning for the City of Chicago, told attendees that O’Hare International is focusing heavily on terminal development because facilities cannot keep pace with airfield infrastructure for handling aircraft.

At home, the mailman brings a promo from Northwest Airlines offering a triple-miles bonus for flying the carrier from Detroit Metro to LaGuardia. I’m wondering: Has the headache of dealing with LaGuardia brought us to incentives to use the place? Or, is this one carrier’s attempt to bring a major airport — and, by proxy, FAA — to its knees by bringing in as many bodies as it is slot-capable?

Then there’s the two Iowa senators — Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin — who reportedly circulated a letter to fellow legislators asking for support to build two new runways at Chicago’s O’Hare. The senators say they want a law that will fund the runways, make it a national priority, and eliminate state review, says the report. The intent is to gain additional access for passengers in Iowa and neighboring states to the aviation system by way of O’Hare.
A couple of things come into play here. One is, it’s a positive to have such legislators thinking of aviation as a national system, albeit a somewhat self-serving initiative. Yet, one has to wonder what the neighbors around O’Hare who constantly fight against building a new runway think about two Iowa senators trying to dictate what happens at "their" airport.
This is yet another example of the increasing conflict we are seeing between national system priorities and a local right to self-govern. It’s an issue that has been most visible in recent times related to noise.
In this particular instance, it would seem that Sens. Grassley and Harkin might be serving the national interest more fully — and ultimately might be more successful — if they were to circulate a letter supporting a third commercial airport in Chicago.

Moving back toward reality ...
The industry-sponsored BE A PILOT program continues to make impressive strides. It recently kicked off a $1 million television ad campaign on ten cable networks, running through September. One of the shows it will sponsor is MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, where you just might see two Iowa senators discussing new runways at O’Hare.
Thanks for reading.