Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Air Traffic Plunges at Will Rogers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Air Traffic Plunges at Will Rogers

Article excerpt

Even though a grounding order has been lifted and commercial air service resumed Thursday, air traffic at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City is down considerably.

Airport officials estimate that up to 25 percent of the flights could be cut.

"I don't know how many flights have taken off or how many passengers boarded or arrived," Airports Director Luther Trent said Wednesday. "The airlines have not informed us of their operations now. They only report their flights and passenger departures once a month so we can bill them.

"But if you just look around at the airport, you can see the numbers (of passengers) are down considerably from what they were."

Even though there's been no official notification, Trent said, as many as 25 percent of the flights out of Oklahoma City may be eliminated because of the drop in demand since the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington on Sept. 11.

New security rules implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration forced a lot of changes, adding hours to travel time.

In the wake of that tragedy, booked and ticketed passengers are canceling in great numbers all across the nation. The problem is so bad that the airline industry has appealed to President George W. Bush for financial assistance.

Along with cutting flights, jobs also are being reduced, which will cascade down the economy.

With fewer flights, there will be fewer parking attendants, fewer foodservice workers and fewer ground personnel.

Fewer flights also means fewer passengers, which cuts into the airport's revenues. Not only do airlines pay landing fees and rents for space they occupy, each passenger pays a $3 passenger facility charge -- head tax as it's informally called.

This revenue is what the airport uses to pay expenses.

At this point, with a $90 million expansion and renovation underway, this revenue becomes critical.

"The passenger facility charge is dedicated to retiring the bonds that we issued to do the work," Trent said. "Fortunately, we won't have any payments coming up until the work is finished, so we have some lead time to figure out what we're going to do."

Plans already are developed to expand the terminal from 341,000 square feet to 583,000 square feet and add one passenger-loading gate. …

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