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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lehigh Valley Internat'l Airport: An Indictment

One person can make a difference.

What follows below is an indictment of the management at Lehigh Valley International Airport, as related by retired consultant Jay Goldstein during last night's meeting of Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners. When he was done speaking, everyone wanted to appoint him.

"About two years ago, I met with leaders of Delaware County Council in Media, Pa. I got their help to set up a meeting in Washington, D.C., with top staff people of Senator Specter's and Casey's offices, who were monitoring Philadelphia International Airport's air traffic congestion crisis.

"The subject of the meeting was transporting LVIA into a reliever airport for Philadelphia International. The staff was very sensitive to the issue, but sadly indicated to me, that while there is a dire need for a reliever airport, LVIA could not be taken seriously by anyone in Washington because the folks back home don't take LVIA's commercial traffic seriously, and that was the end of the meeting.


"In the year 2009 bi-county study by the LVIA ... shows the average cost of the plane passenger at LVIA to be $36.40. For the same service at Harrisburg Airport, the cost is $21.75. That's more than a forty per cent difference between two airports in Pennsylvania, each about the same size, and less than 100 miles apart.

"There's the percentage of commercial air traffic vs. total air traffic at LVIA, reputedly down to six per cent in 2008, from fourteen per cent in 2007. That's a loss of some fifty-seven per cent in one year, and largely before the recession was in full bloom.

"With a reputed average of 320 flights per day in 2008, the LVIA averaged just 19.2 commercial flights in an 18-hour period per day, or about one flight per hour. Was 2009 worse than 2008? Where is the bottom in LVIA?

"The infamous $26 million judgment pending against the airport authority, may result in a very difficult situation for the authority to face, and the taxpayer and commercial fliers.

"Would the FAA balk at a $26 million bill? If so, is it because of the FAA's longstanding disappointment with our Airport Authority's lack of concern for the air traffic congestion crisis afflicting Philadelphia and Newark airports?

"What if the Airport Authority knew years ago that the FAA might not accept the total burden of a ten million dollar original judgment? How could the majority of the Board believe the continued appeals and court-ordered penalties and interest on top of the original judgment, already too big for the FAA to consider, was the right course of action?

"David Haines, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and now a Delta Airlines Captain, went to the Airport Authority about two months ago, after being appointed by Northampton County Executive John Stoffa. He was quoted in The Morning Call, December 14, 2009 article as saying 'This Airport Authority hasn't put a focus on commercial aviation in years, and that's gotta' change.' If Captain Haines' claim is true, where was their focus, if not on commercial aviation? They had to be focusing on something, didn't they? Or is that the problem, that there has been no focus?


"Our Airport is critical to our area's economic well being, so it makes perfectly good sense for a Mayor of the tri-cities to serve on the Airport Authority, which does beg the question, ... why aren't all they serving on the Airport Authority, all of them? Why is there no mention of this whatsoever in the Airport Authority's bylaws? Most importantly, gentlemen, from your perspective, as our county's leaders, doesn't an economically viable tri-city region led by a commercially successful airport, translate into a reduced financial burden?"


Anonymous said...

According to the Call, LVIA executives permitted Hooters Airlines to run up a $1 Million dollar gas bill. Not a few hundred, not a few thousand, one million dollars. Are the executives who permitted this to happen still in place?

Jacob said...

They should get more puddle jumpers to Newark and Philadelphia.

Valley Residents will pay the extra money not to take Transbridge and go through screening here.

Anonymous said...

I love LVIA and do, in fact, pay extra on a regular basis to fly from there vs. newark or Philly, but agree 100% that it is criminally mismanaged.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Are the executives who permitted this to happen still in place"

Yes, they are.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

I have a big issue with Pawlowski being on the board:

The board also has authority over Allentown's Queen City airport. Queen City serves a vital aviation need in the Valley. Pawlowski is not concerned about Queen City's importance as it relates to local aviation - he wants the land so he can have it developed.

Putting Pawlowski on the LVIA Board is truly putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

Besides, I think it's evident Pawlowski doesn't know how to run a city. Why should we believe he can run an airport?

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what all of that means. All I know is that I prefer non-stop flights and there are few choices at LVIA.

Anonymous said...

Queen City serves a vital aviation need in the Valley

Bwaahahah....um, how so?

Xitch13 said...

A major concern/hurdle to becoming a feeder airport is the transportation infrastructure. There are no good roads to get to the airport and no major public transportation.

Route 22 is already over-traveled and can not handle any more traffic. Also, the Lehigh Valley really needs to renew the rail link with Philadelphia and New York.

Having said that, I still believe we can improve upon the current status quo at the airport and should

Anonymous said...

sell QCA. the only interests it serves are the country club hobbyists who want a place to park their airplanes. sell it to cover the costs of the lawsuit that lvia has to pay out or invest it in improving lvia.

Anonymous said...

A few points. Detroit was empty the last time I connected there.

Generally, Airlines have eliminated number of flights so that there are little or no empty seats on available connections.

For years, airfare out of ABE was consistent with MDT (Harrisburg).

How can you grow ABE with a congested Route 22.

Anonymous said...

Monday Flight

USAir from ABE to Chicago connecting on Flight 29 out of PHL is $516

Flying out of Harrisburg connecting on the same Flight 29 out of PHL is $521

USAir Flight out of PHL with direct service to Chicago is $215.

It cost only $215 to fly to Chicago direct out of PHL, but it costs $300+ to take a 20min flight to PHL.

Anonymous said...

'The staff was very sensitive to the issue, but sadly indicated to me, that while there is a dire need for a reliever airport, LVIA could not be taken seriously by anyone in Washington because the folks back home don't take LVIA's commercial traffic seriously, and that was the end of the meeting.'

Sad testimonial about the leadership that exists in the LV. We REALLY need to do better. THIS is how the nation sees us.....

Alfonso Todd


Anonymous said...

Congestion on 22 is a myth.
Ten lane I-95 is more congested outside of PHL than 22 is at rush hour.

Boo-whoo, you can't go 70 mph 24/7. With the exception of some old ramps 22 is fine.

Xitch13 said...

I drive Philly traffic daily, and route 22 through the Lehigh Valley usually twice a week at evening rush hour traffic. Route 22 congestion is not a myth. It is much more crowded than Philly's 95. Much less than the Schuylkil Expressway. But the feeder road for PHI is 95.

Trust me, I'd much rather go to PHI at 9am or 5pm than LVIA. Heck, even if there was an accident on 95, I could hop on a regional rail and be get there easily.

Anonymous said...

the 26 million litigation pay-out will be the death blow for the current administration.

Anonymous said...

Oh snap!

That's the only reaction one can get from reading that article.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps before Pawlowski talks about closing the airport, he should talk about his vision for the site.

If it's anything like what he's done for the rest of the city, be frightened.

Why give Pawlowski a blank check to dole out contracts to his cronies?

Jay said...

Regarding Mr. O'Hare's really exceptional web site, I just want to sadly acknowledge ... I never visited before this matter ... but your site is truly amazing.

Some points I would like to make ...

Can a hangar be rented at LVIA … for a very expensive aircraft worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars … for as cheaply as $4.00 per day or less … while at the same time … it easily costs all of us … twice that sum of $4.00 ... to park an old car … a jalopy ... in LVIA’s … economy … back … parking lot ?

According to financial data the Airport Authority was compelled to give me ... thanks to our new Pennsylvania Right To Know Act ...

Queen City’s financial records appear to indicate that from 2000 through 2008, the Queen City Airport appears to have lost over $250,000 ... even tho the airport received $millions ... from the State and Federal Governments ... while the airport apparently has marginal competition at best for its services in the Lehigh Valley?

These same records appear to indicate the total sum collected for hangar/ramp rentals at Queen City in 2008 appeared to be $315,390. Divide $315,390 by 95 (no. of aircraft at Queen City reported by AirNav.com) and then further divide by 12 (months in a year) ...

... and the average monthly rental payment for an expensive privately owned aircraft parked at Queen City, in 2008, then appears to have been $276.66.

Is the sum of $276.66 less than the average monthly food bill or average monthly rent bill for a blue collar Lehigh Valley family of four? Is it less than the cost of parking an old jalopy (car) for a month in LVIA’s main, front parking lot?

USA TODAY, front page, March 26, 2008 … “Mid-size airports see big growth, Trend fueled by discount carriers, Population shift ”. … “ Mid-size airports outside major cities, such as New York … fastest growing in the nation … passenger and flight volumes soar by up to 400% in the past decade, … analysis of federal data shows.”

So, LVIA ... appears to have possessed some, if not all, of the characteristics that USA TODAY appeared to review in their front page article ... and so LVIA should have grown wildly over the last decade ... from 1998 thru 2008?

Morning Call , January 28, 2009 … “LVIA sees fall in traveler traffic” … The decline … lowest number since at least 1997.” What happened to all of the contentions by USA TODAY back on March 26, 2008?

Regarding that phrase in the Morning Call article ... “at least 1997” ... just how far must the Airport Authority go back to find a year as bad as 2008?

20 years? 30 years? More?

Whether people agree with any of my claims or assessments of this very important regional economic issue ... or that they take considerable exception to my words ... is totally unimportant.

What is important ... is that what is going on no longer evades the public eye. The public needs to ask questions, debate the issue and get involved ... and hopefully my comments have achieved that.

I strongly encourage people who totally disagree with me to offer their disagreement(s) ... and I heartily thank them ... and respect them ... and support them ... for doing so.

Let's keep the debate going, shall we?

Jay Goldstein

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay,
Thanks for the info. In my business travels I noticed a remarkable change when many airlines started merging and threatening bankruptcy. They decreased the number of flights to trim costs and eliminate redundancy. Flights are now limited to fill the seats and there are fewer tickets at the lower fare due to demand. That gives people incentive to shop around. ABE is my first choice, but price does matter.

How are similar airports doing over the same period? It is my general impression that the number of travelers, even the hub airports have decreased.

It seems there are contradicting opinions by the same people. If there was rail to NJ, it just may be a little easier to get to Newark to get a cheaper flight. How can you grow air travel at LVIA if there is the mentality to limit ground travel to LVIA via Route 22?