The Cornered Customer

April 8, 2001


... and other highlights from this year’s ACC/AAAE symposium

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

April 2001

DENVER — Each year, consultants, airports, suppliers, and others meet for the Airport Planning, Design, and Construction Symposium, held this year in the Mile High City. Heading the highlights from this year’s event were discussions on planning and security, along with a spirited luncheon keynote address by Michael Boyd.

The three-day symposium is hosted by the Airport Consultants Council and the American Association of Airport Executives, both based in Alexandria, VA.
Boyd, president of The Boyd Group based in Evergreen, CO, discussed airline service and system problems in a presentation entitled, "Airline Service: The Cornered Customer."
The consultant told the audience that no airline merger has ever increased competition or brought about wide-spread fare reductions. The airlines, he says, are "anti-consumer and rubbing the consumer’s nose in it." Customer service, he says, is what’s needed, not passenger processing.
Boyd says new entrants will become less likely after the proposed United/U.S. Airways and Ameri-can/TWA deals, because of the economics of starting a new carrier along with the fact that few niches remain.
Regarding the U.S. air traffic control system, Boyd says that if the Federal Aviation Administration had taken over the phone system 20 years ago, "today we’d have lines up to payphones to call, and FAA would be blaming us because we want to make calls."
The ATC system is failing, adds Boyd, and the thing those running the system do best is "a song and dance to Congress." ATC is allowed 20 times the number of equipment errors as an air carrier would be, he says, and a carrier that had the failures ATC has would be shut down.
Also from Boyd ...
• Airline performance statistics actually show that comparatively they are doing a good job versus other services/industries. However, the problem is the airlines have forgotten they’re moving people, not cattle or boxes, and people have feelings.
• AIR-21 is giving the industry something it deserved, not something extra.
• By 2005, 29 airports will drive one-half of the U.S. airline passenger traffic, and 60 percent of the growth will come from those same airports.
• By 2004, sales of regional jets will decrease dramatically and airlines might even begin to retire them. The large RJ orders of the 1990s occurred largely because of a need to replace old turboprops, though not necessarily for the same routes. A key consideration: 50-seat RJs are still "commuter cabins" that do not afford the same passenger comforts as a larger aircraft. In time, a number of communities can expect to lose service.
• Peak period pricing at congested airports "won’t solve anything." What is needed is additional capacity at congested airports and ways to increase capacity at existing facilities. That is, airlines generally schedule flights based on what the market wants, so the challenge is figuring out how to accommodate them.

The consultants association is working closely with FAA on updating the June 1985 Advisory Circular 5070-6 on master planning. Belinda Hargrove, managing partner of Transolutions LLC, based in Ft. Worth, says that a problem with the current, outdated AC is that some consulting firms and FAA personnel look at it as "the Bible," as do many international personnel.
Some areas of concern which Hargrove sees with the current master planning process:
• a need for improved communications among all parties involved, from airport personnel to the sponsor to the public;
• a lack of focus on specific infrastructure components;
• financial concerns are often too heavily focused on architectural components;
• master planning fails to place enough focus on anticipating problems that could arise and doesn’t place enough emphasis on landside activities;
• in today’s environment, there is still too little emphasis placed on the role of information technology.
The AC rewrite will be a key agenda item at this year’s joint ACC/FAA Planning Workshop, scheduled for July 9-10 in Washington, D.C.

Parts 107, 108
FAA’s Art Kosatka says that the long-awaited rewrites of Federal Aviation Regulations Parts 107 and 108 for security were at the printer in January, but were put on hold following President Bush’s order to not implement regulations approved by the Clinton Administration but not yet made effective.
Part 107 regarding airport security, says Kosatka, has been finished "for months and months," while Part 108 for air carriers had been slowed because of a debate over the carriage of weapons by different law enforcement segments. In addition, he says that the Air Transport Association and its member airlines worked to slow the approval of the rewrite to save money.
One significant new regulation to come, he says, gives FAA jurisdiction over both airlines and employees when violations occur. Also, Kosatka says airport tenants "will become a regulated party" with the soon-to-be-released rewrites.