Environmental activists have long focused criticism on the amount of fuel consumed by cross-country and international jet travel, but government and academic researchers announce that they are researching alternative fuels for jets. A usable product is years away, but the length of time such an endeavor takes is only one of the many challenges facing development of these alternative fuels:

  • Such fuels are even more expensive than Jet A right now.
  • The fuels are difficult to transport and manage in harsh weather conditions, making snow-prone northern climes more costly for such fuel usage.
  • Some of the alterna-fuels, such as biodiesel, freeze at lower temperatures – making high altitudes "interesting" (tm Peter Kirsch)

Regardless, the inquiry is a positive development. TAL hopes the project proceeds apace and leads to a usable product soon.

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Monday Morning Roundup

May 15, 2006

Things are hectic and crazy here at TAL, as always. Thanks for your continued patience while I try to forge a more consistent posting schedule – something between "every few hours" and "once a month" is my goal.

Airports and stakeholders in the news lately (links subject to disappearing/archival after 7 days):

  • San Diegans are involved in what one article calls potentially "the biggest landlord/tenant dispute in their history" over the need for airport development. The crux of the issue: the current digs are conveniently located, but woefully small. Of three military sites which serve as the main options available for relocation, one – the Marine field at Miramar – is the frontrunner. But both the Marines and the Navy nix a joint use approach. How will it all end – with the airport tied on the tracks a la imperiled Pauline? Stay tuned for a real-life demo of NIMBY in action. (LA Times)
  • Planning to pick up a Prada bag on your next jaunt to Shanghai? Good luck with that. Prada SA has opted to close its authorization for the store in the Pudong International Airport, after counterfeit goods were found. Wonder what the percentage rent on a Prada store would run …(ChinaDaily)
  • An eminent domain battle is brewing over a privately-owned field in New Jersey. Solberg is owned by the Solberg family, which opposes a referendum scheduled tomorrow on whether Readington Township authorities will be permitted to undertake a $22 million bond issue, with an eye towards purchasing development rights and open space around the airport. (NJ.com)
  • Panama City/Bay County Airport Authority officials report that they’ve received the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) from the FAA for the proposed relocation of the airport. The final ROD should be issued in September. (ANN)
  • More on Wright: Southwest mentions the "T" word (takings) and says any closure of Love would come with a price tag exceeding "the stock options of all American Airline’s executives combined." (MSNBC.com)

Haven’t done this in awhile! In the news recently:

  • Airport Business News reprints from the San Francisco Chronicle a report on expected high traffic numbers this summer.
  • A circulated offer of truce from Dallas/Fort Worth surfaced, signalling a potential break in the Wright Amendment logjam. (Airport Business News)
  • Rep. Mary Bono lobbied President Bush directly for additional funding for the Palm Springs tower on a recent trip. (The Desert Sun)
  • TSA is reportedly looking at a bonus structure to reduce high turnover among screeners. (USA Today)
  • The San Diego Airport Authority’s public relations program is the focus of two articles offered at Voice of San Diego, raising the question: if you don’t do PR, you lose – and if you do PR, you lose – are airports just not going to win this one, no matter what they do?

Jet Blue Has the Blues

April 9, 2006

Once up on a time- not so very long ago- Jet Blue was the twinkle in many an airport authority’s eye. The low-cost carrier was courted by many commercial airports, who saw the airline’s growing prestige as one of the few carriers "getting it right" as a real feather in the cap. Now? Not so much. Jet Blue isn’t in bankruptcy court, as just about every other major player has been (or is currently), but investors aren’t jumping up and down as they used to, and that has some industry tongues wagging, it would seem. Even the airline’s own CFO, John Owen, admitted that the criticism was "legitimate," stating "we’re not making money."

Is this is a function of the 2005 explosion in fuel costs? Or is something else – something more intrinsic – going on at Jet Blue? Analysts agree the fuel costs have a lot to do with the state of the industry in general, but that’s not the only reason they’re souring on the former darling – they claim bad choices of markets coupled with an aggressive expansion plan that was unfortunately timed have also contributed to the red ink.

Compare Jet Blue’s current lukewarm reception with the praise heaped on legacy carriers like American and Continental, being heralded by securities firms for aggressive trimming of costs and fare hikes, and you could well wonder what parallel universe you’ve leaped into. Jet Blue going into year six with a successively anticipated loss, and its plans to add capacity are being called into question.

What’s the solution?  Plans include raising fares, focusing on more short-haul routes to lower fuel costs, taking another look at its market selection choices with respect to its competition.

The Man With One (Non-Explosive) Red Shoe … Delta’s LaGuardia terminal reopened after an alert was sounded by a man whose shoes set off a screening device. TSA officials stated the man probably thought he’d been cleared, and that certain fertilizers (among other items) can cause false positive readings in the machines. The terminal was emptied and rescreened; things returned to normal chaos a few hours later.(USAToday)

This Airport Stuff is HARD … St. Clair County (Michigan) government is considering a deal with a private management company to take over operations at the local airport which hasn’t been profitable, had to cut 17 employees last year, and relies on county funding to make up its shortfalls (last year, just under $200,000). The TimesHerald editorial board thinks it might be a good idea, too. (PortHuron TimesHerald)

And They’re Thinking About Getting Out Of It, Too … Hong Kong International, while seeing a temporary dip in numbers over last year because of the placement of the Chinese New Year on the calendar, seems to be rocking and rolling overall. Landings and takeoffs up slightly over 8%, a 10% jump in cargo operations, enplanements up overall … and the government is looking to privatize the airport. (MSN MoneyCentral).

Plane Orangeburg Needs a Little Elbow Room … Orangeburg Municipal Airport is preparing for a two-phase expansion, including new hangar space and expanded ramp space, in hopes of engendering some new traffic. (TimesandDemocrat) (photo by Larry Hardy, used w/ permission of Times and Democrat)

The Neighbors Are Walking … The submission of a draft master plan for Benton Air Park (Redding, CA) triggered a call by City Council for an indepth report on the air park’s operations, fiscal health, and potential effects of moving the park’s operations to a nearby muni airport. Some of the neighbors have moved from areas adjacent to Benton Air Park due to safety and noise concerns. (Redding SearchLight – subscription required)

Bring On Da Noise … Or not, say two Long Beach city council members, who want to investigate new, harsher tools (including amendments to the local noise ordinance and revisions to existing user leases and permits) to put a halt to late night flight noise violations at Long Beach Airport. (PressTelegram)

Southwest Florida Wants to Run, Y’all … TSA says it’s stellar, but the Port Authority running Southwest Florida International is exploring ways to make the baggage system go even faster – to 2000 bags per hour, or 33 bags per minute.  (NBC-2)

After a bout with some unexpected health challenges and work crises, we’re back on what we hope will turn into a semi-regular posting schedule, with this, our Monday Morning News Roundup.

Alanis? Now, THIS, is ironic… DHS’s office complex isn’t secure. Blame the contractor? Or the Department? The Department says it had no control over the way its security contractor performed, but is going to rectify that situation with a new contract.  (AOL News)

In the Nick of Time … Northwest and its pilots apparently reach a deal on Friday last, with the union leaders to sit down that night and hash out details. None have, so far, been forthcoming. (MSNBC)

Not So, Delta… Meanwhile, Northwest’s "partner" in Chapter 11 (only in that both filed on the same day) isn’t having so much luck with its pilots, so its request to throw out its contract with the pilots is headed for arbitration. (MSNBC)

Who Got Miss Congeniality? … In the beauty contest between Boeing and Airbus, looks like it’s Airbus’s A320 over the 737 in Asian-market orders. (MSNBC)

Midway Private? … Mayor Daley is renewing talk about taking Midway Airport into the realm of privatization (where precious few airports have gone before in this country). After a bill aimed at getting the process started sailed through the state legislature, minority lawmakers began asking questions about minority concession rights, landing fees, and other related issues. Timing is everything, folks … (Chicago Sun)

Maybe She Was Running Away From Simon … Paula Abdul caused a security breach at Las Vegas when an unnamed employee allowed her and her entourage to bypass security altogether on her way to board a Southwest flight to LA. (SignOnSanDiego)

Speaking of Going Private … The modernization/privatization efforts at Delhi and Mumbai airports is proceeding apace, with the operations and management agreements to be signed within a few weeks. (Financial Express – be warned: 2 popups, which defeated the mighty Google toolbar blocker.)

Noises Off…. A study prepared by consultants at Mead & Hunt concludes that even if commercial traffic comes to McNary (Oregon) Airport, no breach of the noise standards in neighboring residential areas will occur. Try convincing the neighbors themselves, though. (StatesmanJournal)

Judge Allen Gropper, NY Bankruptcy Court judge overseeing the Northwest case, says he should rule by Friday on pending issues related to labor contracts, specifically the airline’s pilots’ union. Northwest told Judge Gropper last month that it had reached deals with some workers, but not the pilots or flight attendants, and asked for permission to reject those contracts. The pilots object to Northwest’s plan to move much of its business away from higher-paying big jets to less-remunerative (is that a word?) RJs; the airline says that’s a major cost-cutting factor in its plan to emerge from Chapter 11. Both the pilots and the flight attendants began voting on a strike yesterday.

Delta worker Dale Johnson got an immediate reward – beyond the good will of his coworkers and TSA, that is – for challenging an unbadged employee. After Johnson called on the employee to show his ID, the unbadged worker identified himself as "Hartsfield Harry" – the airport’s nickname for a pretty clever "secret shopper"-type program, in which employees are given the opportunity to "do the right thing" by spotting an infraction of the rules. The prize? $500, which Johnson said he gave to his wife. Good call.  (Note: link is to top story and may scroll off or change.)

… but United’s finally exiting bankruptcy court, stage right. "It now has about 30 percent fewer employees (58,000), 20 percent fewer airplanes (460) and 20 percent lower operating costs (7.5 cents per seat per mile), excluding fuel, than it did when the bankruptcy began on Dec. 9, 2002. Labor costs are down by more than $3 billion annually after two steep pay cuts and the elimination of defined-benefit pensions. Dozens of daily domestic flights have been eliminated." Papers were filed this afternoon, and Pete McDonald’s making the hand-shaking rounds at O’Hare, apparently, as we type. Congrats, United!

  • Stewart Airport’s changing its name … (MidHudson News, via AirMag Blog)
  • Chicago’s been buying land around Midway for some time now (Chicago Tribune) … American’s decision to pull back some flights at DFW post-Wright amendment doesn’t worry credit analysts who say the airline’s still "on the hook" for DFW costs (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) … Whether the Director still has a job is just one of the resulting issues of a certification inspection that revealed 27 TSA and FAA citations at Macon (Ga.) Airport, which is being helped by a TSA official and some personnel on loan from Savannah/Hilton Head (Macon Telegraph) … Small airports in my home state (think tar on heels) get some good press (Raleigh, NC News & Observer) (all via AirportBusiness.com)
  • The Grumman G73-T Turbine Mallard seaplane that exploded and crashed into the ocean off Miami’s shore yesterday will be raised by NTSB teams today – 19 bodies have been recovered, and all 20 (including, tragically, three infants) were thought to have died in the crash… Qantas ordered 65 new Boeing 747s, while UPS ordered 10 Airbuses… Delta’s pilots have chalked up a "rare win" (MSNBC.com)