Air Transport World

New York airports update.

Surrender is a word not in the vocabulary of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The organizations is committed to maintaining New York's position as the nation's leading international gateway and is putting its money where its mouth is.

Despite competition from new gateways, the three major New York area airports operated by the PA still comprise the busiest regional airport system in the world. In 1990, before the impact of the Gulf War and the U.S. recession, John F. Kennedy International, Newark International and LaGuardia airports together handled nearly 75 million passengers and about 2 million tons of cargo. What's more, says the PA, they contributed some $22 billion in economic activity to the region and accounted for about 240,000 jobs and $6.6 billion in wages.

So the fact that the PA takes very seriously the competitive threat posed by the proliferation of international gateways in the U.S. is no surprise. There's no getting around the fact that passengers bound for, say, Walt Disney World or the Southeast find flying nonstop from Europe to Orlando, Miami or Atlanta more convenient than via JFK or Newark. Nevertheless, says the PA, the New York airports still offer more nonstops or direct flights to international and domestic destinations than any other U.S. regional system.

If, as seems likely, other gateways continue to eat into New York's relative share of traffic, volume at the three metropolitan airports will still rise to between 95 and 100 million passengers a year in absolute terms by the end of the century or soon thereafter, the PA estimates. To meet this demand and make travel more convenient, the PA is spending $ 5 billion on airport and access improvements and expects private investment at the three airports to total $2.25 billion by the year 2000.

This is in addition to major projects--rail links between the airports and local transportation systems, and between JFK and LaGuardia, which would be financed by a proposed $3 passenger-facility charge. Collection of the fee, which could begin late this year, would generate about $ 100 million a year, which then could back more than $1 billion in revenue bonds.

At this writing, FAA approval of the PFC was being held up by a dispute between the PA and FAA over the phaseout of Stage 2-aircraft at New York airports; the PA wants to put the ban into effect before the FAA deadline. Also, objections of major airlines to the PFC-financed projects must be overcome. Their position: Construction of the rail links would tie up PFC funds for years but the rails would not be used by a significant number of passengers. Wrong thinking, says Stanley Brezenoff, executive director of the PA. …

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