In other transportation news, the ever-adventurous entrepreneur Elon Musk purchased a prop car built for the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me and plans to convert the prop into a real submarine car. Letters to the editor take note of the new ethical dilemmas that would stem from the availability of self-driving cars. Finally, the end to the last in a series of rules placed on air travel to and from Dallas Love Airport may mean increased number of flights by Southwest Airlines, which operates out of the airport, leading to increased competition and lower fares.
A $250-million runway at Los Angeles International Airport is deteriorating. A lawsuit was filed against four companies involved in building the runway, accusing them of ‘ negligent construction,’ resulting in quicker wear and tear. The city said there were flaws in the runway design, as well as the method in which concrete was poured. LA will now have to prematurely reconstruct Runway 25 Left, which will require the rerouting of aircraft to other runways. An anonymous LAX source said there has been more debris than normal stirred up on the runway when aircraft land. If the situation gets worse, debris could get sucked into aircraft jet engines and cause damage.
Airlines are seeking alternative ways to maintain profits by offering luxuries on flights. Etihad Airways, for instance, has introduced “Flying Nannies” to attend to children during long flights from Los Angeles. Jetblue is also offering “Mint,” a new class that will feature lay-flat seats that give massages. Drinks and tapas will also be available for order. In a more concerning trend (for employers anyway), younger business travelers tend to charge more of their travel expenses to the company they represent, according to a recent survey. Moreover, younger travelers will more likely partake in more expensive actions and write a negative review of their experiences, in contrast to older travelers. Such negative reviews are the last thing hotels need, now that the federal shutdown is cutting into their revenues.
Who hasn’t looked into advertisements boasting flights starting at $59? During slower seasons, offering lower fares allows airlines to maintain profits by selling seats that might otherwise be empty. According to an analyst at Hudson Crossing, 1 out of 10 people will book an unplanned flight because of good travel deals. However, these deals are typically accompanied with a number of restrictions, such as no refunds, flights that leave only on specific days, and limited destinations. For these reasons, airlines don’t actually expect to sell many tickets at these prices.
Where exactly is Bob Hope Airport? It is common knowledge to residents in LA County that the airport is located in Burbank. However, its name does not indicate its location in Southern California, which may be a downside to its name. Passenger traffic has been declining at Bob Hope Airport. Tourists and other such travelers may not realize that the airport is much closer to attractions like Universal Studios and Hollywood. Officials say that if travelers don’t realize this, they may be flying into Los Angeles International Airport instead. The airport is in the process of addressing this by highlighting its location in pamphlets, brochures, and promotional material.
In the long term, the airport will pursue a terminal expansion project that includes demolishing the existing terminal while retaining the same number of gates. The proposed terminal would be more earthquake-proof and fulfill modern Federal Aviation Administration requirements regarding space between terminals and runways. More restrooms, larger waiting areas and upgraded baggage claim mechanisms would form part of the makeover. All in all, the new terminal would have as much as 68% more space compared to the current terminal. However, officials warn that the proposed terminal is still in the conceptual stages. Moreover, Burbank voters must approve the new terminal in 2015 before any construction can begin. If approved, it would take between 5 and 7 years to complete the new terminal.
In an attempt to stop the decline of passengers using Ontario International Airport, Los Angeles World Airports announced a campaign consisting of reimbursements for advertising related to Ontario flights, a reduction of terminal fees and the summoning of private firms to handle certain airport functions. Officials from the City of Ontario and San Bernardino County believe these efforts are too little, too late, even as they attempt to wrest control of the airport from the City of Los Angeles. However, these latter officials should probably note that other mid-sized airports have seen similar declines, since airlines are shedding off less profitable routes to smaller markets just to stay alive.
However, San Bernardino officials are getting some criticism in reverse for their seeming indifference to the Gold Line project. Montclair leaders are asking the San Bernardino Associated Governments tofund the $55 million extension from Claremont to Montclair using money appropriated for carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway. SANBAG Executive Director Ray Wolfe counters that such a transfer would be impossible since Measure I, the local sales tax that funds transportation projects in San Bernardino County, allots money to specific projects and modes through voter-approved formulas set into law.
In the ongoing drama of who should own Ontario Airport, the City of Ontario rejected a $474 million sale price from operator Los Angeles World Airports, subsequently leading to the submission of a claim aimed at dissolving the 1967 joint powers agreement between Ontario and LAWA. LA officials charge that Ontario is acting presumptuously while negotiations for the airport are still ongoing.
An LA City Council committee endorsed the controversial LAX improvement plan, to which a vote by the entire Council will follow later in the spring. Of course, Council approval would merely mean the continuation of the environmental review process for the alternatives chosen.
While that fight continues, American Airlines announced it will add flights from LAX to 8 new destinations as a means to attract more business-class clients. Innovative sliding seats made their debut at an aircraft trade show in Germany.
The battle for Ontario Airport heats up as Inland Empire officials balk at the price LAWA wants to sell the airport for. Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and operates the airport, claims that the airport is worth between $243 million and $605 million when taking into account recent upgrades. Inland Empire officials counter that the steep drops in both passengers and flights suggest that the airport’s value is much lower. The Federal Aviation Administration contends that proceeds from the sale can only go towards upgrading LAX and Van Nuys Airport (also operated by LAWA), not into the City of Los Angeles general fund.
Despite fears that federal sequestration would lead to problems at the airports, a flight monitoring website reports that on-time performance of flights across the nation remains the same compared to a year ago, with said performance actually improving at LAX over the same time period. However, the effects of sequestration on TSA screening times are unknown as of yet, though officials are working to keep moving passengers through as quickly as possible. Yet, passenger complaints rose anyway during the same period, according to an academic report. Also, LAX Terminal 5 is getting $229 million in upgrades. Delta will fork over $12 million of that, mostly towards a new VIP lounge.