September 25, 2001

Local Airport Keeps Low Profile

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Due to its modest size and a location that is removed from most major cities, Tompkins County Airport has been buffered against most of the problems that have been confronting the nation’s major airports since Sept. 11. Still, flyers from Ithaca can expect minor changes and updates to the local terminal.

On Sept. 9, the airport changed carriers from U.S. Airways to one of its subsidiaries, called Allegheny Airlines. The change resulted in 37 layoffs, though most of the workers were given the opportunity to work elsewhere, according to airport manager Robert Nicholas.

The layoffs and new airline carrier were “absolutely” not related to the terrorist attacks that took place two days later, Nicholas noted.

Even though U.S. Airways has laid off 11,000 workers nationally since the attacks, “at this time there are no expected layoffs” at Tompkins County Airport, said Melissa Abbott, station manager of U.S. Airways Express. Abbott noted that because Allegheny is a subsidiary of U.S. Airways, changes to the parent company do not necessarily affect Allegheny.

Other aspects of the airport, however, have been affected by recent events.

“Lately, people have not been flying for a couple of reasons: they are not as secure about flying as before, and after seeing things in turmoil they postpone trips that are not urgent until things [such as airline schedules] clarify,” Nicholas said.

Last Friday, the passenger load was about 30 percent of what it normally would be at this time of year. Much of this can be attributed to people who buy tickets but do not show up, Nicholas said.

As a result of a decreased number of passengers, about three out of 18 flights have been canceled each day.

“There will be fewer flights, with the schedule determined on a five-day basis until October,” Abbott said. “When October comes the schedule will be announced for the entire month.”

Changes in prices — if they change at all — will also be announced at a future date. Already, however, some selected routes have received price reductions, Abbott said.

Nevertheless, changes to Tompkins County Airport have been minimal, especially compared to changes at major airports.

“We’re not seeing as dramatic a schedule change as the hubs such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” Abbott said.

By some accounts, not even the major hubs have been severely hindered.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, for instance, “is open and operating normally with no problems, whether it is at check-in counters, security checkpoints or on the tarmac,” according to Jerry Orr, U.S. Airways aviation director, according to a recent U.S. Airways news release.

National and local airports have felt the effects of increased security.

“Security measures have been ramped up to a higher level causing delays for getting people checked in,” Nicholas said, noting that the airport had already spent $1.2 million earlier this year to improve safety and airport capacity.

Flyers should plan for the entire check-in process to take 90 minutes, Nicholas said.

Archived article by Peter Lin