Inside the Fence

July 8, 1999


By John Infanger, Editorial Director

July 1999

John Infanger, Editorial Director

Reporting from a Paris Air Show excursion and from the editor's desk, where an influx of Congressional updates is denying the rights of dust mites to congregate.

Rep. Bud Shuster, in his pursuit of the aviation Triple Crown, is out of the starting gate with a victory in the U.S. House for his AIR-21 bill. But step two will be a tougher race, with the Senate offering stiff competition. And the president is still saying he will take the ball and go home if no one recognizes he is making the rules. (He often seems to be playing a different game than the rest.)

But the race is still being run, and handicappers remain out in force.

* * *

• The trains, they say, run on time in Europe. They did on this trip; no sitting on the tarmac waiting for ATC to clear up at your connection. They also move very quickly — an hour and a half Brussels-to-Paris (downtown to downtown) is hard to beat with an aircraft.

The Brussels and Paris rail lines take you right into the airport arena; at Brussels, you're just a few floors below ticketing (convenient, indeed).

• In July, duty-free goes away for many inter-Europe travelers — at Brussels, that's an annual loss of $15 million in revenues.

• Security, European style, is an experience. Personally, I don't enjoy being around anyone who's toting an automatic rifle, finger at the trigger. But then, I also have no desire to test their mettle.

At Brussels, the 100 percent bag match system is impressive to witness, utilizing state-of-the-art technology to sort, screen, direct, deliver. The airport, a private enterprise, takes responsibility for passenger screening.

A call to an industry insider more knowledgeable about things security says it may take another 15 years before the U.S. has 100 percent bag matching in place systemwide. Several reasons: one, of course, is scale; the second is that we're placing our emphasis on (don't say those words) personal profiling; another is that the screening equipment mandated by Congress is more sophisticated than that used in Europe, and it's expensive — $1 million a pop.

A skeptic might suggest that money is reason #1 and reason #2 is the inability of Congress to appropriate. Let's just hope that one more terrorist act doesn't occur, throwing all that good logic out the window.

• Interesting side note: For an editor to get clearance to be escorted around the Brussels tarmac, three days lead time and a copy of his passport are required.

More about the Brussels visit in the next issue.

* * *

• Chip Barclay, head of AAAE, speaking at the association's annual meeting about airline competition and airport business practices, says DOT has been AWOL during rates & charges (R&C) debates on the Hill.

Barclay also points out that DOT's policy has been not to examine R&C if the airport and incumbent airlines are in agreement. Now, he says DOT will investigate anyway and, by the way, what are you doing being in agreement with the incumbents?

• Susan Kurland recently resigned her FAA Associate Administratorship for airports and joined U.S. Airways. Her successor has not been named.

• Great copy: A Cessna ad for the new Citation X offers, "Sips fuel. Swallows continents."

Thanks for reading.