The Western skyscape is changing and travel agents should know the
" Low-fare carriers are continuing to expand far beyond regional
" Their growth is keeping the runways busy at what used to be
called “alternative” airports.
" Despite declines in travel volume, some metro airports are
pushing ahead with construction and renovation plans.
Here’s what’s happening at select airports:
Although air traffic at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
declined some 5% during the first half of this year compared to a
similar period in 2001, the airport is in the midst of its first
major makeover since the late 1960s.
Things are changing so fast that when an airline worker recently
parked his shuttle cart for a coffee break he returned to find
workers had built a construction wall around it.
Consider: The Central Terminal is being expanded to encompass
more retail space and large public areas. Concourse A is being
completely rebuilt and enlarged. Both projects are slated for
completion in 2004. Sea-Tac’s Satellite Transit System, essentially
a subway that opened in 1969, is being renovated.
Finally, a third runway is scheduled for completion in 2006. The
project is expected to significantly reduce delays related to bad
Since Delta pulled its trans-Pacific service in the late 1990s,
the Oregon airport has been relegated to an “O&D” facility,
essentially handling only origin and destination passengers.
But that could change.
The city is in a fight with Seattle to land Lufthansa and
nonstop service to Frankfurt.
While a number of international carriers frequent SEA,
transcontinental carriers no longer call at PDX. Oregon officials
argue that the German flag carrier would have the advantage of an
airport all to itself, at least for international flights.
Overall, PDX traffic is down 8% to 9% this year, on par with
With traffic tumbling 15%, SFO continues to suffer.
Weather delays aren’t as bad as they once were, but only
because, “We have fewer flights, so there’s less impact,” said Mike
McCarron, the airport’s director of community affairs. “We’re still
one of the worst delayed in the nation.”
The airport’s Web site explains that when foggy or bad weather
forces the closure of one runway, it cuts SFO’s arrival capacity
from 60 flights per hour to 30.
When the airline industry rebounds, expect clients’ frustration
levels to rise commensurately as they wait for late flights. And
don’t expect any quick fixes. The configuration of SFO’s runways is
the root of the problem, and it could be years before local, state
and federal officials settle on a solution. Oakland International,
where traffic is up by 3%, is the direct beneficiary of SFO’s woes.
Southwest continues to expand there, as does another low-fare
South Bay traffic, however, is off: Traffic at San Jose is down
20% to 22%.
“A lot of that can be attributed to the cutbacks by American,”
said Brian Streeval, an airline analyst with the Colorado-based
Boyd Group. The area’s tech-dependent economy is also to blame.
Before Sept. 11, AA had planned to launch nonstop Paris and
Taipei service from SJC. Now, those flights are on hold.
Traffic at LAX is off 14% to 15% as major carriers, including
some international airlines, reassess and retrench.
Alitalia is the latest airline to cut back, axing LAX-Milan
service. American Airlines, however, recently dedicated its T4 hub
at LAX. T4, the result of $300 million in improvements, is now
conveniently linked to the Tom Bradley International Terminal via a
But the big story in the Los Angeles basin is Long Beach, where
traffic was up 75% for the first half of 2002 compared to the same
period a year ago.
JetBlue has put the bounce in LGB. Not only are its transcons to
New York JFK going strong, the low-fare carrier recently launched
service to Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Traffic at the West Coast’s southernmost airport is down some
7%, a bit better than the national average. That’s because
Southwest is such a force at SAN.
There’s a real dynamic going on up and down the coast, Streeval
said. United has pulled capacity from the market and virtually
abandoned their shuttle product, leaving room for more expansion by
Southwest, he said.
But don’t expect WN to expand within the region, at least not as
it had been doing in recent years. Because of the economy and
security delays, travelers are taking fewer short-haul flights.
“You might actually see Southwest expanding into the area from
other parts of the country,” Streeval said.
For example, the carrier just announced that it will fly San
Jose-Baltimore/Washington nonstop beginning Jan. 12, a follow-up to
its successful LAX-BWI service.