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US aviation failing? We've screwed ourselves

Our airports are terrible, and our airlines find it harder and harder to compete. We've done it to ourselves through shortsightedness, underfunding, and flyer-unfriendly policies. ( More...

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Ian Lancaster 9
It looks like most of the posts here are from US folks, so allow a Brit (and a passenger, not a pilot) to also comment - a different perspective. I lived a while in NYC and used Continental and United, so built miles and privileges with them, so when I returned to UK I stayed with them to cross the Atlantic and for US internal flights. But only for a short while, because they simply failed to develop their product and service to match the European and Asian carriers. Example: I cashed miles to fly Virgin from London to Newark, then Continental to SFO and onward to Honolulu. I couldn't believe the difference in quality in Virgin business and domestic Continental first - no comparison! Nor, later, on transatlantic flights with United and American. They simply don't compare with the quality offered by European and Asian carriers. And given that fares are about the same, why would anyone choose an inferior product for the same money?
US Immigration has got better, but it's still a pain! I try and avoid the big port of entry airports where the lines can be horrendous. On the other hand, entry in to the UK for non-residents is also a pain!
ian hatch 3
I agree, as an ex-Brit, however rememebr that British Airways was known as BRUTISH Airways for many years - Iranair was preferable when I worked in Tehran. Other than poor service, most American flagged carriers should be the last resort for nayone thinking of flying to any Islamic country.
Lynn Strouse 2
Most the US airlines service from first contact to baggage collection is a nightmare. Also the condition their
aircraft is not just messy but dirty. More like flying sewers.
Look at your fellow pax. Most of them wish their couch was that clean. Lol
I was on AirTran last month, 4 planes, filthy trays. The Flight Attendant didn't even apologize when I asked her for a damp paper towel to wipe it clean before I ate.
Years ago on Delta the same thing happened, but the FA wouldn't even let me wipe it, I was in a window seat and she reached across and wiped it herself...
bthiago 1
Ian, No comparison at all. Unfortunately, I hated Virgin because of their service while I had flown from KMIA to EGKK in their Premium Economy. While I normally fly KMIA to KEWR with United once every 3 Months in their Business/First with a magnificent service.
But All the airlines, My favor one was Lufthansa in their A380 from KMIA to ZURICH in Business UPPER Deck. That's what I call service and great experience.
Detonate 6
Well, this is an example of differing priorities. The state/municipal governments in the US care about issues which effect VOTES. Like large corporate organizations, next election( or quarter) is as far ahead as planning goes. TSA is a a Politically Correct disaster to any traveler, for all the usual excuses. We deal with air travel as though it was the subway. Maybe it is cheap and lots of bodies go through the pipe, but everything is "Least common denominator" logic.I just returned from Ft Meyers FL (RSW). The terminal and outlying facilities are just Great; however, it took 45 min to go through Security because: TSA only had one scanner
running. Attitude Check!
Pa Thomas 4
Except, of course, that Amtrak doesn't need a "comeback". It is doing just fine.
Ric Wernicke 2
Nonsense! Amtrak does a third of its business in just three cities. That is because it takes longer by air because of political interference from long established "experts" in DC, NYC, and Boston.

It has lost tons of money every year since 1975. For each fifty-nine cents a passenger pays for a ticket, taxpayers add a dollar. For every passenger riding from NYC to DC that pays a $ 174. fare, we all chip in $ 295, total of $ 469. Travel time almost three hours.

American Eagle will sell you a seat JFK to DCA for $ 122. Travel time 1 hour 10 minutes.

Politicians, as demonstrated, have no respect for peoples' time.
PhotoFinish 2
That NY/DC example males no sense whstsoever. The Northeast Corridor is extremely profitable. The profits from that section plus the taxpayer subsidies are used to maintain the national rail network and to provide subsidized rail service nationwide, including across the plains and over the Rockies.

Makes sense for government to provide the infrastructure: interstate highways, national rail network, FAA ATC. Then private enterprises could provide competing services: buses, trucking firms, passenger & freight trains, airlines and air cargo, etc. A straight up tax on those services (either a gas tax or a sales tax) could recover the cost of providing the infrastructure.

Even if they did away with Amtrak and/or the subsidies, I'd be happy to take over the Noetheast Corridor rail service, compete head-on with the airlines and keep all the profits.

You have to wonder why some people choose to pay more to take the train. Could it be that the train stations are conveniently located in center city, with no hassle in getting to outlying airports. Could it be that one can just show up minutes before the scheduled train departure, rather than dealing with the hours long airport experience, between getting to the airport, checking bags, security lines, walking to distant gates, avoiding airport oversized golfcart/ tanks/ pedestrian death traps, waiting at the gate for boarding, weather delays, overscheduled runway delays. Could it be the unproductive buffer time (planning to get to the airport/gate well in advance in case something goes wrong cause too often something does - unexpected traffic on the way to airport, unexpected long lines at the airport, etc.), that takes one away from work.

OTOH for the train, one leave for the train minutes in advance; walk to train, take the subway or a taxi. One can continue to use wifi/ cell service to remain productive on the train. Then when arriving at destination station, already be in center city, not far from office, client, hotel, etc. which again is a short walk, taxi or metro ride away.

There's something to not being scolded by the crew for using a cell phone, or getting looks from other passengers, no matter if you're checking email, sending an important message or playing Words with Friends.

The train experience is just more pleasant. Note how the flying sardine cans/ turboprops need to sell at a discount to compete.

Even the new bus services are more convenient air travel. Just walk over to the bus pick up spot (also in center city) and have a comfortable trip with free wifi, and all the conveniences of the train, minus te cafe car, and get into center city, often in less time than air travel and at great discount.

Plus, I have to remember to not have a Swiss army knife, bottle opener, bike tools, nail clippers, letter openers or any of many little convenient widgets that many of us have with us, whose presence makes getting through security not easy nor problem free.

Air travel is just one of many options. Even as an airplane/ airline aficionado, I recognize that other options can be more appealing for a myriad of reasons.
Or for taxpayer money.
m f 4
I have had the mis-pleasure of transiting through SF on ANA/United flight from Manila via Tokyo and on to YYC. The flight was late by an hour. No big deal right? But when this happens in all other airports I have visited and have a connecting flight through, I was assisted through customs. All except the US where we missed the flight because of having to spend two hours clearing customs even though we were not staying there. I'm confused. I have to provide all information before boarding a flight from outside of the US but then I have to go through the same process when I get there just to jump on another flight to get out of the US. It is so archaic. For a country that prides itself to be so technologically adept...... wow. Take a page from Singapore guys!
Looks to me like the hour late flight started the chain. Lol
flyerh 1
Yeah, all cities could learn from Singapore, and it's been that way for several decades. Hong Kong & Kuala Lumpur are first rate too. Bangkok & Jakarta are greatly improved but still have a long way to go. Manila is trying.... very trying. But TORONTO, was better when they were handling Viscounts & Vanguards in the Malton days. Smarten up YYZ.
I have previously commented on ex-im. Only helps Boeing and foreign airlines, not taxpayers. Airport and operations are substandard because most of the tax money is wasted.
John Rogers 3
The problem with our airlines started when they boards of directors of the various airlines ushered the pilots and flight attendants out of the board room and brought in non-aviators to run things. There is a knowledge factor to running any aviation operation that can only be acquired by being in the cockpit, on the tarmac in the maintenance hangar and in the back with the passengers. And the TSA is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction that has turned into a jobs program for the mentally challenged.
Brian Evans 3
Dear Ronald Dent, Bombardier employs around 30,000, Embraer around 18,000. For the last three years, Canada has exceeded Brazil in the manufacture of airframes. Bombardier is not Canada's sole producer of airframes. Canada also builds a large number of aero engines.
Joanne Gibbs 2
Did anyone mention deregulation? Private business does not want to pay so there is underfunding. Shareholders see bottom line so customers are not part of their equation. Some companies get it right, but when there needs to be a cooperation for the common good, the arms get short.
jagerardi 2
The longer we find it more important to "protect" the members of our government (thus TSA) over moving passengers comfortably through these ports, we will continue to decline.

Only we the people (interesting phrase, no?) can change it.

Regarding the comment concerning the "In Transit" mode of operation, where the author bemoans the clearing and TSA checking. Has he made an transit at NRT? Every passenger must go through the TSA style of security clearing before they get to the "In Transit" area. Granted, baggage does not have to be claimed and rechecked, but one best find a restroom before getting in line to clear the inbound passenger clearing lines.
Patrick Smith 3
I believe that the NRT rigmarole pertains only to passengers transferring between flights aboard U.S. carriers...

In any case, the TSA screening is only part of what makes U.S. transfers so damn difficult.

shuras85 1
All flights. And not only NRT. All over the freaking world. CDG, PRG, SVO, AMS, ICN.........
shuras85 6
We didn't do it ourselves, or not entirely ourselves. Global economy, which we created, did. Authors like this 'pilot' can moan all they want, however, just compare the ticket prices on the carriers he mentioned and everything will become very clear. You know why Emirates are doing so well? Next time you buy a truck think about that! Every time you put gas in your car you support Middle Eastern conglomerates. Yes, they service is outstanding, safety is beyond this world, clean and comfy planes, but at what price? This author needs a reality check on employment practices in Asia, EU and Middle East. Discrimination, bigotry and plain harassment. Go ask Air France or Lufthansa employees how are they feeling about their jobs. No one in Singapore Airlines will ever complain, because if they do, they are out the door the same day. I'm sorry, but I still find it amazing to fly a round trip from SEA to JFK for $308. Find me a price like this in Russia, Asia, and EU? And my trip is not on LCC, but good ol Delta. I'm a commercial pilot with an MBA degree, I know exactly, just like many of us here, what brings revenue on every flight. And, I'm sorry, but I love flying Delta, Alaska and SWA. First has got me hooked when I was a business traveler, second serves my home town of Seattle and we just love their attitude towards everything and the last just helps me get around across Texas for work. And I don't care that flight attendants are older, tired and not as glamour sly dressed like the ones in Emirates, but they are us. And, yes, SWA has old 737s, but Alaska makes up with their young fleet and Delta has live TV! Thank You.
Patrick Smith 9
<< Authors like this 'pilot' can moan all they want >>

I'm sorry, but are you suggesting that I'm * not * a pilot?

As for the rest of your points, I AGREE with you, wholeheartedly, and I've said as much in many of my columns and articles, etc. (You're obviously not familiar with my work.) I'm talking about the hassle of U.S. transfers, I am not talking about airline service in general, or any other aspect of air travel.

I certainly do not need a "reality check." I've been an airline pilot for 20 years and I've traveled to 80 or so countries.

I read your articles, very nice reading. Having also worked on the ground support side for airlines and GA, I have to say also that overseas, even the lowest man on the pole takes pride in his job. Just yesterday, I was in the Caymans and the fueler was neatly dressed and friendly. He was very efficient doing his job, no mess. A few hours later I cleared customs at FLL, runway markings and signs were still there for a non-existent runway. I naturally stopped suddenly when seeing that, we questioned a clearance to cross and got a smart ass response. At customs another asshole inspector being very rude instead of just handing me a form to fill out, and then a rude idiot behind the counter at Sheltair. Not saying it's all terrible here in the US, but the majority certainly don't take pride in what they're doing. I should know, I live in Jersey!!!
KauaiGolfer -3
Let's see, you didn't read the NOTAMs about FLL, you didn't have the forms you're supposed to have when flying internationally, and you didn't bother finding out about the landing and GAFIS fees before flying into FLL. But everyone else was rude, because they had to stop what they were doing to back you up because of your piss poor flight preparation. Get your own shit together before making judgements about how you're being treated.
Well dumbass, notam or not, when you come up on a runway sign all of a sudden in the dark, having not been there recently, you STOP!!!
Also where did I mention anything about fees???
The guy at Sheltair was rude to our passenger.
shuras85 3
Patrick, I'm not familiar with your work. But, let's not compare oranges with apples. Who would use US as a transfer point? Australians? I highly doubt it. Well, maybe, into Canada. And yet again, try connecting in London between the two major airports. JFK is a breeze in comparison. Or, Paris, Moscow, Frankfurt, Rome, Seoul (try going from Asiana to KAL)??? Airlines invests heavely in their terminals and they have all the right to force you to fly them or partners. And. btw, most of the foreign carriers have major government subsidies.
P.S. As a fellow pilot I'd rather compalin about TSA screeening procedures, employee parking, etc., than transfers. P.S. Most of the mentioned transfer heavens are privately owned and operated unlike any U.S. airport. So, private port - government carrier. U.S. government port - private carrier. Best, Alexander.
Jeffrey Babey 1
I am buying your book :)
Do we really care if world travelers pass thru here? A couple companies make a few bucks and the taxpayer pays. Just saying.
shuras85 1
And if you are simply trying to make a point about the U.S. transfers, please, choose a lesser meaning title for your work.
Very good remarks. We made the playing field and stacked the deck against ourselves. Given some time and possible world events, places like Dubai will be reclaimed by the desert.
ivan07 3
Alexander, your comment shows an absolute arrogance to the fact that there is actually a big world out there,not just confined to the boundaries of the USA. I concure with the author that the USA and the politicians has caused America to fall behind because of over regulation and unfriendly policies. Why today is Learjet and Bell found and build in Canada. I have flown the past 15 years mainly to the USA and I can tell by looking back that the USA aviation has demised and fallen behind. I mainly fly business class, and honestly, no carrier in the USA can compete with some of the airlines. I flew Air New Zealand just recently, and being a small country, their service was one of the best I have ever flown, and believe me, I have been on a lot of airlines. I believe the USA Aviation has lost it's edge.
shuras85 2
Yep, blame the politicians, not yourselves. They make shop at Wal-Mart, buy a big truck, load up your guns, feed your kids junk food, take a third mortgage... Thankfully, there are people out there who clinch their teeth together and go against the grid to get business aviation back, who still care about their customers not just revenues. Learjet was purchased by Bombardier in the early 90's that is why it is made in Canada and the US (Kansas plant is still there). Canadians need jobs too, you know. Don't get me wrong, bureacrats have a lot to be blamed for, but individual responsibility should prevail. So, please, fly Emirates, but then don't be surprised why your fellow pilots are being furloughed at American.
Roland Dent 1
Brazil beats Canada on airframe building...easily.
Brian Evans 2
Bombardier employs over 30,000 workers. Embraer around 18,000. Airframe orders in Canada have exceeded Brazil's for the last three years. Where did you get your stats?
shuras85 -1
And it is not arrogance, Ivan. I've been 'enjoying' Moscow's airport system throughout most of my adult life. But am I comparing Russia to US? Nope. Very different animals. And if someone calls U.S. aviation a failure, I'm more than happy to take a stand. Don't like the politicians, don't elect them. Or if you do, get your together and pull through. Who said it would be easy? But the last thing we all need is a whole bunch of cry babies, especially, pilots.
shuras85 1
Also, Sea-Tac airport is a masterpiece, so is new Delta terminal in JFK. CDG is still a huge mess. ICN is just too freaking big :)
Completely agree with the article. To add another point to this the Companies add insult to injury with all the extra fees and charges. Like im going to LA in July on United and apparently i have to pay for food on my flight. Like that's ridiculous. I agree with the fact that more money needs to be put into our Aviation system. Everything from the Airports, to systems, etc. My home town Airport is Newark Airport, the place is a freaking dump. Awful, disgusting, etc. The lines for security are extremely long like (1-3 hours), they delays are massive, and then the Airport was poorly designed. More money needs to be invested into it, plus the more money they put into revamping our Aviation system might mean more jobs!
Roland Dent 2
My Gosh what a story..nvr knew it was that bad.
shuras85 1
Pay for your food, pack less in your bags, so you don't check it and move on. Or up! Don't like the lines get a TSA Pre Select. We are the land of opportunity, so let's pay the way, and if not deal with it. I've been through EWR and lines are not that bad depending on the day. Times of PanAm have passed. You want an affordable fare? Well, here you go.
Andy Bowland 2
If we charged the foreign airlines the same fees they charge us to use their ATC, airports and facilities we could fix our system within a few years. Just keep in mind our taxes are paying for Cubana Airlines to fly through our airspace and use our ATC system, while Cuba charges US airlines hundreds of thousands of dollars to over fly Cuba.
honza nl 3
You forget: US taxpayers in general not want pay tax, tax is bad etc. Well, if you pay for peanuts you attract monkeys ! Look at the roads in the US, the condition of the bridges, railroads etc. It is comparable with many developing 3rd world countries....So instead of pointing to others better look first at yourself. And then: do you really think that the few Cubana planes make a difference for your quality ?? If they pay ATC suddenly the US is OK??
I am not sure where you get the idea that our railroads are in bad condition. In most cases, no developing country has anything close to what we have in the U.S. on most major railroad carriers.

Second, and most important, 99.999% of tracks in the U.S. are private property, pay taxes on that property (in some states at a higher rate than homeowners), and use their own funds in upkeep. The biggest carrier Union Pacific, is spending nearly $3 billion in 2013 for improvements and big ticket items Yet still there is constrained capacity in a few segments.
honza nl 1
Physical infrastructure, once the pride of America and a major contributor to its economic and social growth and success, has in recent years become an acute embarrassment to this nation. Infrastructure failures, ineffectiveness, and the inability to properly plan, construct, manage, and maintain it now pose an acute challenge to America’s claims of economic, social, environmental, and technological leadership.

Most of our road, rail, water, sewer, electric power, wired telephone, and other distributed systems infrastructure are old and in need of repair. Our ports, airports, and rail terminals are archaic, ill designed, badly run, and poorly maintained.

Levees, coastal defenses, and dams often lack effective inspection and maintenance. In New Orleans, the core of many levees had been washed out, causing them to fail – a fact not discovered by simple visual levee surface inspection. Yet seismic measurements would have readily identified the growing problem for timely remedial action.

Similarly, the recent Minnesota highway bridge collapse should have been prevented by proper timely inspection and maintenance. But most of our infrastructure is 50 years old or older, uses outdated designs and engineering, and has experienced little if any maintenance updating or repair. We do not have or use advanced infrastructure testing, inspection, or maintenance management methods.

Performance of recent infrastructure projects such as Boston’s “Big Dig,” its Kenmore Square bus station, New Orleans’ levee reconstruction, and various dams, bridges, port and airport projects are a reminder of how far this country has sunk in its public infrastructure development capability. Rapidly developing new economies such as China, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, and others all place great emphasis not only on the timely and efficient development of infrastructure, but also on effective maintenance, updating, and constant improvements of these essential systems.
Roland Dent 0
9/11 killed the gravy train.
ivan07 0
Only because the polititians allowed it to happen
Dee Lowry 1
The Rise and Fall of American Aviation:
#1: Degregulation
In 1978- President Jimmy Carter signed into law to remove government control over fares, routes and market entries. The CAB was phased out, allowing passengers to be exposed to "Market Forces" in the industry. But the FAA maintained their "Air Safety Program". It's a "Hub to Hub" competition. But the Airport Facilities are overused or not even capable of handling the growing "births" of new airlines, A-380's, more runways or more efficient systems for transporting passengers. There is a major conjestion with the Hubs...most, I feel, is a result of the Airlines' attempt to meet the demands of the "Flying Public". The inevitable is a result in delayed flights, name it! It's saturated!! Forget about "Cabin Service"...!! Just be thankful you got from point "A" to point "B"! Expectations???? Don't even go there. Aviation is not what it was in the 1970's-1980's. I guess one can't complain about what's not going to happen anytime soon...if ever...sorry to say. I miss it! You might want to thank the "Upper Management" and the "Politicians" for this unfortunate situation.

#2: 9/11...I feel...that was really the end of Commercial and General Aviation, as I see it.
Alan Tegel 1
I do agree with the article. The problem comes down to our inability to plan and be disciplined about executing a larger quasi-private enterprise project. The hub-based airlines still remember how to do service; however, the problem is that flying public and our wall street breathern are so focused on quarterly performance that we now have the race to the bottom facilities. Personally, I would love to see a carrot and stick approach made where airlines with major "hub" presence get credits and breaks in the facilities they help maintain, and the point-to-point carriers get forced to pay extra fee's.

As for building airports, we can do it in the country look at how IND was considered the #1 airport in the Americas? They planned out a whole new terminal over a long period of time and executed to plan. IND has the luck of being able to have the spare land to do this work; however, it had less resources to do it.

Matt Hauke 1
"In a CNN poll of 1,200 overseas business travelers who have visited the United States, a full 20 percent of them said they would not visit the US again due to onerous entry procedures at airports, including long processing lines."

Onerous entry procedures and long processing lines??? Just in the U.S.? I've never been in longer processing lines then Frankfurt or London Heathrow. They must not fly a lot if they think the U.S. is the worst.
Well Orlando has a world class airport!
JJ Johnson 1
LAX is third world. The TSA are perverts and power freaks. The airlines in America treat us like cattle. They nickel and dime us with fees. Yes I agree flying in America sucks. I drive or just don't go I remember when flying was fun now it's drudgery I hate it. Airline CEO's making millions while providing cracker jack service to the public. The only thing that keeps the airlines in America from going completely belly up is a few bad crashes and a few thousand dead people. Unfortunately I believe that is coming next.
hardworker7 1
Form follows function. Concerning this subject, thats not a good thing.
While flying Vancouver to Sydney and return four times we had the following occurances. Pre 9/11 we changed planes in Hawaii with ne immigration check. Post 9/11 we were able to stay on the aircraft in Hawaii while refueling but 3 months later we had to disembark and trudge through customs. Nothing is open at 2300 hrs so I guess it killed some time. On our next trip we had to go through customs on both flights. This customs requirement when the US is not you destination is anal. Finally Air Canada purchased the 777ER thus no refuelling was necessary. We have flown all over the world and have never had to go through customs in a country which was not our destination.
PhotoFinish 1
Noticed that KPIT is already years into following through on the sensible recommendations that I made above.

Southwest is already the largest carrier at KPIT (including flights by Airtran subsidiary).

There is limited opportunity for foreign airlines or service to destinations abroad, apart from limited leisure travel destinations. In order to support a vibrant mix of international destinations requires a vibrant network of domestic destinations serviced by the airport. KPIT had that when they were US Airways largest hub, but killed that with airport fees that weed way too high.

With limited O&D traffic, KPIT's only chance of drawing an oversize amount of air service, would be to have a compelling schedule of competitive airport fees.

Maybe riding Southwest ascendency as the 4th national US network, and largest domestic carrier, is KPIT's best shot. Enduce Southwest to add ever more flights and destinations, with competitive fees/rebates, and lots of smoke capacity, and great service. Make sure all their flights can get out on time regularly and reliably. Southwest will reward the airport with ever more flights.

With a robust network of destinations, KPIT can approach overseas airlines (particularly unaligned airlines) and get them to plug into KPIT's network of domestic destinations. The more destinations your airport serves, the more airlines and destinations you can attract. With any luck, Southwest would provide codeshare opportunities, and make it even easier to attract international service.

It seems KPIT's best days are behind it. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an ATC position at KPIT. That job already exists, but it moved to KCLT long ago, and won't be coming back any time soon.

But who knows, with some great airport management, KPIT may someday be a great airport again (and justify all that infrusyructire buildout a decade ago).
Ric Wernicke 1
The problem is not money. The problem is politicians that run the airports. These mental defectives do everything they can to discourage air travel. In California they are convinced rail travel will make a comeback.
Part of that idea Ric is that they expect the same results that the North East Corridor has. But the problem is, the NEC is very old, and thus there is no new infrastructure to purchase as in CA. The NEC can get you from downtown BOS to downtown IAD faster than taking a jet.

Transport in the U.S. is far different than in other countries, especially Europe where the distances are much shorter, population centers closer together.
joel wiley 2
Tsk tsk Ric Wernicke.
Lincoln said, " you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time...."
With enough money behind you, you can fool enough of the Calif voters most of the time. what else is new? The transportation issue involved is transporting money from taxpayers to ....
ace005 2
Politicians running CA airports is probably why I saw alot of "Close Ontario Intl., Vote Prop ..." ads online before voting a couple of years ago.
Oh ya! Ca has got it all figured out. Lol
shuras85 1
I use too much of PS and my grammar is faulty. My apologies in advance
s2v8377 1
Whoever wrote this article needs a history lesson!!! For example JFK is a much older facility than the one's mentioned in Dubai and Bangkok. JFK can't grow!!! or be completely redesigned there's no room. Besides that there is no room in the NYC metro area to build a new modern airport.

The same basically goes for MIA, LAX, and ORD all of which are much older facilities than the ones highlighted in the article. In addition they are all located in metropolitan areas with little or no room to expand.

The United States does know how to build modern facilities. Just look at DFW a modern design with far more flexibility built in a location which allows for growth. DFW has also invested in their infrastructure with the opening of the new International Terminal D a few years back.

I can say from personal experience that JFK and MIA are great facilities and their operators the PANYNJ and Miami-Dade have done a good job with their airline partners upgrading the existing facilities. Just look for example at JFK American's Terminal 8 is excellent, and Delta and the PANYNJ are investing millions into the IAT Terminal 4. JetBlue also is expanding their modern facility at Terminal 5. It must also be noted the inconvenience of the AirTrain at JFK is overstated in this article; it's really not a big deal. At MIA American's Concourse D is beautiful as well as the newer Concourse H and J used by many of South America's and Europe’s national careers.

The bottom line is our airports can never be like these new facilities in other parts of the world, even if their operators and airlines had a blank check. It is completely unfair and unrealistic to compare them.

On the airline side of things US carriers face a huge amount of competition in a deregulated environment. Again not an issue in somewhere like Dubai for Emirates. Not to mention the subsidization of some foreign carries which our US carriers do not enjoy.

It's easy to forget the facts when frustrated but there is a reason things are the way they are. Overall I think our airport operators and airlines do the best they can under the circumstances.

Excavate Crooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, then there'd be room for JFK expansion...
joel wiley 2
You are certainly correct. All one needs do it to bulldoze the surrounding land to extend the airport space most anywhere. There is a problem with that tho'. Remember the question " What is 20,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?" (Ans: " a good start"). Countries with a casual disregard for property rights do have a competitive advantage in a global environment.

just sayin.
George Gross 1
One reason is because we have a group of elected fools in congress and the senate that ham string any progress we can make in all areas.
Do you think that your airports are terrible? Then try Sao Paulo (GRU) or Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to see what terrible really means! I recently used Kennedy, La Guardia, Orlando, Miami and Atlanta and it was fine. But on arrival here in my country I could feel the difference...
Kevin Fortney 0
We have to look at the bigger picture here. The USA is probably near the top for a target for terrorists in the world. It is the price we pay for being the worlds policing force. We are hated by so many. We are paying the price due to safety in our skies. But take away our processes and security measures, we will have one 9/11 after another and people will stop flying period to the USA or within. We live in a world of bombs, hijackings, and the like. There is no way around what we are required to do in this nation to prevent future terrorist attacks. It is the price we pay for being the most free nation on earth.
Lets not mention that we probably have 20 times more commercial airports than any other country in the world. Our people have access and ability to travel easier than anyone else in the world. But we are a stumbling block for the rest of the world? I really hate that. :-)
Rick Rae 0
First thing the US govt. should do is privatize ATC. In Canada, it was the best thing that ever happened. We have had technological change and modernization we could only dream of while under the yolk of Transport Canada bureaucrats.
flyerh 0
Also, my wife would occasionally accompany me on some of my trips to Asia & Africa. She now refuses if I have to transit the U.S.A.
michael Solon -2
Thats great we want less foreign travellers coming through the USA. We like our country with less foreigners!
Airlines are doing fine. It's general aviation that's being choked to death.
We're screwed.
mike stoyko -3
ok may I say something? KPIT 4 RUNWAYS SIMILTANEOUS APPROACHES ON 3 THEY BUILT AN AWESOME HUB THE POLITICIANS did that right....4th largest in land ....look what happened to this wonderful design well in operations since 1997 it went from 14th in the country to 47th this last year! now why did the aviation industry kill this airport as a major hub? WHY?!!!yes some of the air traffic controllers are a$$holes I know daddy (in that club most of you are part of decided his son would get the job. And now the once young man I sat next to in school is a supervisor there) see men what I am trying to say is that the people whoever "THEY" ARE have decided to kill KPIT. and THAT IS THE SAD REALITY. so stupid for us to fly to EWR, JFK,CLT PHL turn around and fly to lax sfo or LAS! YET "THEY" KILLED KPIT!...folks you all here are very educated so please forgive me if I have offended anyone....I have 3 years college and 3 years of pushing tin at what then was one of the busiest level 2 VFR TOWERS was 52nd in operations. I guess the club that "runs the world" has decided to kill it. and I will NEVER EVER JOIN THAT "CLUB"....THERE are good men the one that trained me ...he was an assistant chief ..his name is on a bronze plaque at the KPIT Tower. He was a great man.....these kind of LEADERS ARE GONE from the levers of power. so to us aviation failing? YES!!! ITS GONE FROM KPIT.....DID WE SCREW OURSELVES? NO we love aviation, we love planes, flying ,all of it......SOMEBODY "SOMEWHERE" IN A PLACE UNKNOWN" sent down the edict from on high that certain great airports are too good and must be punished and not get a "haircut but should be shaved bald!" PS: hey FAA?! WHERE IS MY ACADEMY DATE? YOU SENT ME THE I'm HIRED LETTER IN MAY 2009 ITS 4 YEARS LATER AND AT AGE 47 I ONLY HAVE 8 YEARS LEFT! CKB WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? No I didn't join the "club" and I won't ever join the masons lodge odd fellows eagles none! now what is wrong with aviation? we have people at the top taking orders from scum that run the world.....instead of being men with the integrity that would do the right things and turn this industry around the people with the levers of power have my personal opinion...we need men with integrity that are independent to fix this mess....but I honestly don't believe that will happen. :-( Forget the "global economy rhetoric propaganda" and take care of the UNITED STATES first!!!!! we need jobs so we can pay the taxes so we can pay for obummer that might have worked in 1955 when there were lots of jobs and industry but now will destroy most of us.....I call on GEN X people to kick the scum out as we assume those levers of power , I implore you to FIX IT cause you are just old enough to remember what "good service WAS!!!" PPS IS THE NIGHTMARE BLACK....or are the windows painted? I wonder.. can you all answer this?
Pa Thomas 3
47? And the controller age cutoff is 31? Keep working on your punctuation.
PhotoFinish 1
KPIT is expensive. That overbuilding gave airlines and air travelers, exactly what they are not demanding - higher fees. Dividing the cost of great new facilities that have the capacity for many travelers over fewer travelers by charging them higher fees is exactly the opposite of how to attract all those potential greater numbers of travelers.

US Airways took their hub traffic to the CLT, which is also a great hub, but with much lower fees.

Guess PIT is not run like a business, at least not a well run business. Politicians don't make the best business decisions.

I don't see where PIT will fit into the needs of any of the 3 large US hub carriers (which are the natural potential customers of the facilities). They all seem to have plenty of east coast hub capacity. If anything, with all the recent consolidations that resulted in the Big 3, we are more likely to see te shedding of redundant hubs, rather than the addition of yet another hub.

Plus most other hubs have lots of destination travelers, to complement the transiting traffic. (Except maybe CLT, but they have the advantage in lower fees).

If only you could pick up PIT and move it to an area that could actually use it. Would make a great LGA replacement. That ain't gonna happen, so don't hold your breath.

PIT has 2 choices.
1. Write off the cost of the white elephant, and drop prices to attract lots of travelers, and maybe recover the investment.

2. Wait decades. Let the facilities get old. Then write off the cost of the white elephant because it has gotten old, and no one will pay top dollar for an old facility.

Both options will entail writing off the debt/cost of the overbuilding. One will result in actual utilization of the facilities and the jobs that would follow. The other doesn't. While it would have been best to do so before a major airline left, it'd never too late to make the fees competitive, and try to attract airlines and travlers.

You can try to get a Big 3 airline. Southwest might also be interested (as well as any LCC) but only if the fees are low enough to justify flying there.

And if PIT were able to build up a rich network of city pairs served from the airport, they might also attract some foreign airlines to tap into the still-imaginary rich route network.

There are lots of possibilities, but all start with lowering of the fees that killed PIT.
That's kinda why the first class section is small or non existent now isn't it? Everybody wants high end but don't want to pay for it. Look at the masses in the terminal. Do they look like they are used to lots of amenities? Some can't even afford soap! Lol
PhotoFinish 3
Forcing high-end fees on all airport users is not realistic in a competitive environment.

No airline will choose to use PIT except to serve the local travel needs, eg. small regional airline service to connect to other hubs elsewhere.

Investing in PIT is not consistent with the counter-incentives. Any service transiting through PIT is guaranteed to be more expensive while being less profitable. Makes no sense whatsoever.

They must drop the fees.

PIT will never recover the invested costs with local service alone, no matter how high the fees get. They'll never attract hub traffic with non-competitive fees; the additional traffic necessary to recover the investment.

There is no guarantee they'll ever build up the necessary volume (even if they drop the fees) to pay-off the investment, or justify the build out.

But it is sadder to never try, and leave the facilities to rot greatly underutilized.

No need to give away the house. Just price the facilities on par with other airports, with some rebates/incentives in the early years to get airlines to invest in PIT.

It would be ironic if PIT became an LCC mecca with their upgraded facilities. But better lots of cheap flights to lots of cities, instead of just a few expensive flights to limited hub cities.

PIT needs new leadership willing to take the tough decisions necessary to make PIT relevant again. (But I wouldn't blame anyone outside of PIT for their situation. Not the airlines (not even the hub airline that left, nor any of the others that don't take its' place). Not the travelers either (when given the chance to pay more to fly through PIT, most travelers will choose whatever alternative exists, no matter how nice the facilities are at PIT).

In short, deep the fees PIT.
PhotoFinish 1
* drop the fees


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