Flight Blog

 

You may have noticed some uproar lately in local media reports about Uber service at the airport. Uber is the on-demand private ride service; it recently started doing business in Springfield.

There are several angles to this story you haven’t heard. This post will be long-winded so please bear with us. Let’s start with what’s being reported in local media: complaints from Uber drivers about the airport.

Drivers don’t like the temporary airport parking rules in place that corporate Uber agreed to. Rather than taking their concerns to their employer, drivers are by-passing Uber and complaining directly to the media, and indirectly to the airport. Media then portrays Uber employees as small businesses being mistreated by the airport.

This is a peculiar situation ...

We're currrently negotiating an operating agreement with corporate Uber (a multi-million dollar company) in San Francisco. When it’s done the agreement will spell out many things, including where Uber employees can operate on the airport, and how much Uber will pay the airport for doing business at the airport. As these corporate negotiations continue, the company's employees are trying to set the terms on their own. And they're doing it through the media.

The main concern Uber employees are voicing to media concerns staging (staging is industry jargon for a parking area where drivers wait for fares). The airport has temporary rules in place that forbids Uber from staging on airport property (we expect this issue will be worked out in the operating agreement that is being negotiated).

Staging sounds simple enough, but at an airport it’s anything but. Bottom line: we currently don’t have any place to stage them.

Drivers have suggestions:

  • “Put us in the cell phone lot.” The cell phone lot is for airport customers. It’s too small for both.
     
  • “Build us a parking lot.” Who’s going to pay for it? The airport is not obligated to build you a parking lot.
     
  • “Put us in the bus/shuttle parking lot.” That lot is for busses and shuttles. It’s too small.

The bus/shuttle parking lot is off the table for another reason as well: that lot is right next to the lot where taxi cabs stage. Uber has asked us specifically not to stage its drivers next to cab drivers. Why? Because when cabs and Ubers are staged close to one another it’s not uncommon for brawls to break out. If this sounds far-fetched, do a Google news search. Cab drivers consider Uber a threat to their livelihood.

Uber drivers have responded to the rules by staging on the side of roadways that are off airport property. This has prompted some to say that parking on the side of the road is unsafe. In response, drivers blame the airport.

Well, the airport is working with their employer to figure out a solution. We’re confident something will be worked out.

Okay, enough of the back story, let’s move on to another, but related subject: how things work at the airport.

Some think the airport has an obligation to build facilities for a business that wants to do business here. Here’s how it really works and why …

While the airport is owned by the city of Springfield, it does not receive tax revenue from the city. The airport is set up as an “enterprise fund,” meaning that it must pay its own way.

The airport gets funding from two basic sources:

  • The federal government. The feds send us money through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA money comes mainly from fees on airline tickets, aviation fuel and cargo shipments.
     
  • The rest of our funding comes from revenue that the airport generates. This includes income from fees and rents charged to airlines, restaurants, rental car companies, gift shops, etc. To put it simply: any business that does business at the airport must pay for the privilege of doing so.

It’s not us making that bold faced statement. It’s the federal government. Any airport that receives federal funds must play by this rule. Why? The feds want airports to as self-sufficient as possible (click here for a deep dive into the subject).

So bring the last paragraph around to the current situation. If Uber wants a staging lot it will work with the airport to figure out a funding source to pay for it. The Uber corporation understands that airports can’t provide free services for the company. Yet, its employees, on their own, are demanding accommodation that the airport is not obliged to provide. If we do provide it, it will be part of a formal operating agreement between corporate Uber and the airport.

 


 

We’re now shooting for a mid-December opening for the new parking areas in the long term parking lot. We’d hoped to have them open this month, but have been delayed by the late arrival of the new light towers. The manufacturer of the towers says we should have delivery in a couple of weeks. After that, they’ll have to be wired and mounted on their bases.

The need for additional parking is the result of the airport’s rapid passenger growth over the past couple of years (up about 11% since 2014).

Growth is good, but it’s been a headache for customers in the parking lots — several times this year we’ve run out of parking places. The short-term remedy has been to allow parking in the aisles and just about any nook and cranny that a car can fit in. We apologize for the inconvenience.

UBER TOO

Earlier this week Uber, the on-demand private car service, received permission to operate in Springfield. The airport and Uber will negotiate an operating agreement in the next few months, but in the short term Uber drivers will be allowed to pick-up customers in front of the airline terminal, at the west end of the front curb. Signs designating the pick-up area should be up by the end of today (Wednesday).

We expect Uber to be available here by the end of the week, perhaps as early as today or tomorrow.

 


Oct 20 2016 A Refund for Late Bags? BY sgf-adminTAGS Airlines

Those of you who fly frequently will likely find this story from the Associated Press of interest. In a nutshell: a new federal proposal would require airlines to "refund fees when checked bags are "substantially delayed."" But wait, there's more — and it's particularly interesting to those of us who work in the airport and airline industry. Check it out:

"One of the new rules would force airlines to report flight delays by all the planes that fly under their banner. Major carriers haven't been including flights operated by their regional airline partners in their performance reports to the government."

Yes, that's right. Every time you hear a media story about flight delays the numbers are WAY under reported. The numbers come from the federal Department of Transportation. The DOT doesn't tell the media that the numbers are under reported, and the media doesn't know any better.

There's at least one major airline that's always bragging about it's on time record. If this proposal becomes a rule, that will have to change!

 


 

but our mid-year report card is pretty good!

July 2016 was the busiest month in the history of the Springfield airport — the total passenger count was 98,112. That’s up 4.6% from the previous record month, which was July of last year.

Overall, for the first seven months of this year, total passenger numbers are up 1.6%. If growth continues until the end of the year, 2016 will be the best year in the airport’s history.

Our previous record year was just last year. Setting consecutive records like this is a bit unusual, but not unheard of. And while we hate to overwhelm you with numbers, today’s good news is all about numbers — here’s some more —

Let’s talk airplane fuel sales — July was the best month for fuel sales in ten years: 740,105 gallons.

How about take offs and landings? It sounds silly, but we do count them. It’s a good indicator of how the aviation industry is doing in general. In June the total number of take offs and landings was the best it’s been in five years: 4,830.

In July the total number of scheduled airline flights was up 18% compared to the same month last year. That’s 847 this July vs. 717 last July.

The total number of available airline seats was up 13% in July — we’ve got more numbers, but we’d better stop now  …

So, what’s it all mean? Why should you care?!

The numbers mentioned here are, in a very real sense, economic indicators.  And they tell us that the local economy is doing REALLY well — more people fly when the economy is strong. A good economy affects all of us — for the better.

More people flying also means that airlines pay more attention to us. When they see strong growth in an air market they’re more willing to add non-stop destinations, or bigger airplanes. The proof is in the pudding: all of our airlines (Allegiant, American, Delta and United) are bringing bigger planes to Springfield. In December, American added non-stop service to Charlotte.

So there you have it. Please forgive us for throwing all those numbers around. It’s just that so much of the news we hear these days is bad — we thought it would nice to share some good.

 


 

LITHIUM BATTERY CONCERNS
 

Safety concerns over lithium batteries continue to grow. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a safety alert urging cargo and commercial airlines “to conduct a safety risk assessment to manage the risks associated with transporting lithium batteries as cargo.”

 

The problem with lithium batteries is the risk of fire and explosion. Have you heard about the so called “hoverboards” that burst into flames? They have lithium batteries.  As a result, American, Delta, and United have banned hoverboards from all aircraft.

There's conflicting infomation about whether all lithium batteries are a concern, but the larger ones (as measured by "watt hours") seem to be singled out. Check out these shipping guidelines from United Parcel Service.

 

AMERICAN ADDING GATES AT O'HARE

Chicago O’Hare airport (ORD) is the airport a lot people love to hate — perhaps the most common O’Hare complaints: congestion and flight delays.

Those of you who fly to Chicago a lot will be glad to know that American Airlines is adding five additional gates — scheduled for completion by 2018. Read more about it from ch-aviation.

The additional gates are part of a bigger plan that the city of Chicago has to improve things at O'Hare. You'd think that improvements would please everyone ... well ... not everyone, sort of.

 

NO-FRILL FARES

Seasoned air travelers have likely heard about, or noticed, the fare wars going on at some major hub airports between the legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United), and low-cost airlines (mainly Spirit and Frontier).

The low cost guys are waging the war with no frill fares. Here’s how Spirit Airlines defines no frills: “Our fares are fully unbundled. No “free” bag. No “free” drink. Other airlines bake those options right into their ticket price. We don’t. A ticket with us gets you and a personal item from A to B.”

The legacies are now making plans for their own no frills fares — the New York Times offers this analysis of the no frills plans of American, Delta, and United.

 

All this talk about no frill fares sounds interesting enough, but will they eventually make their way down to smaller air markets such as Springfield? We hate to say it, but no.

 

No frill fares will only exist in select large air markets where low cost airlines fly. The current business models of Spirit and Frontier dictate that they serve large markets only. By “large” we mean markets that fly millions of customers a year. The Springfield market generates less than a million customers a year.