Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Airport director talks McCarran’s capacity, goal of efficient passenger experience

Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of aviation, McCarran International Airport, speaks at a panel discussion at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit at Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. She is flanked by Mark Thorpe, left, interim CEO Ontario International Airport Authority, and Scott Brockman, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

A trio of airport executives addressed issues they’re set to face, ones that could prevent them from spreading their wings and soaring.

Speaking at the International Aviation Forecast Summit at the Wynn Tuesday, Michael Boyd, chief executive officer of Boyd Group International, moderated a chat session featuring McCarran International Airport’s Director of Aviation Rosemary Vassiliadis; Memphis-Shelby County Airport President and CEO Scott Brockman; and Ontario International Airport CEO Mark Thorpe, aired the problems the aviation industry is expected to face in the future.

Vassiliadis was on hand to explain what the biggest issues McCarran faces going forward.

“Besides terrorism? Capacity of the system,” Vassiliadis said. “From the air all the way down to the ground.”

McCarran is the eighth-busiest airport in the country, seeing a record 47.4 million visitors in 2016. The airport is on pace to break that count this year, as made evident by the all-time single-month record of 4.3 million visitors last month. The visitor count is 2.4 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.

Getting ahead of possible problems, the construction of Terminal 3 at McCarran in 2012 has enabled it to stave off overcapacity for the next several years.

Aside from Terminal 3, the addition of a new roadway system and ramp are among other small upgrades that help McCarran run smoother.

Despite doing all they can to stay ahead of capacity, Vassiliadis said problems at other U.S. airports affect McCarran's daily workings as well.

“If there are timing issues at another airport, it affects us,” she said. “We could meet capacity here at McCarran, but if the decline is in LaGuardia, if the decline is in LAX, it impacts our system and the entire day could be off.

“Airports have been very strong on the needs that we all have to have and even though I may have capacity now, I have to worry about the entire system.”

With airports relying on ways to get in and out of the airport area quickly and smoothly, especially in Las Vegas where travelers want to land and get to their hotel as quickly as possible, having adequate travel modes is vital.

With McCarran having limited ways that travelers can go to and from the airport, additional modes have been studied.

From light rail to a monorail extension to elevated expressways, various options have been brought up as alternatives.

“We have a discretionary passenger — we’re a destination airport … they want to come to Las Vegas,” Vassiliadis said. If they are stuck at a light for several turns (after landing and heading to their hotel), and they can see their hotel, they don’t know that (the travel could take that long).

“All they know is they took off from, say, Chicago at 2 p.m. and don’t get to their hotel until 8 p.m. and that is all a part of the experience.”

Beyond travel efficiencies, there are challenges to fund airport projects regarding passenger facility charges (PFC).

PFCs are fees added to airline tickets that raise money used to upgrade an airport that collects them, such as projects to increase traffic flow in and out of the airport.

The maximum PFC McCarran can charge is $4.50 per ticket. McCarran generated $85.6 million in PFCs in fiscal year 2016.

Airlines oppose PFCs because any added fee to a plane ticket can deter a passenger from flying. Despite that, the funds help pay for needed projects that end up benefiting the airport and air carriers.

One such project is the airport connector tunnel project that was completed in 1994, which was built using PFCs and not local tax dollars.

Despite the project creating an easier commute to and from the airport, it was initially contested by airlines because of the use of PFCs.

Now with the tunnel being a vital part of travel here, airline executives praise it.

“A Southwest executive says in his speech, thanks goodness we did that,” she said. “Because that gives us that additional capacity of going in and out of the airport. We had one way going in and out of the airport before then.”

Original article can be found here ➤

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