|South Metro Airport Action Council
** S M A A C **
Public Announcement/Press Release Date: 19 November 2004
SMAAC Fall Forum
Elected Officials Criticize Politics at MAC
At this year’s Fall Forum1, Representative Dan Larson [63B]said he doubted if the Metropolitan Airports Commission [MAC] would provide safe capacity to meet Minnesota economic growth and provide airline competition, much less proceed in an environmentally sound manner.
“Many Members of the Legislature represent districts without airport noise exposure, and they are hard to approach about equitable noise mitigation in neighborhoods around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport [MSP]” Larson said, “And Northwest Airlines constantly lobbies us about its importance as an employer and taxpayer. SMAAC may be right to point out their financial problems could be exacerbated by the increased expansion of their hub. The fiscally conservative may approve cutting costs for noise abatement and environmental compliance, but not for airport safety. A loan of almost $100 million to Northwest Airlines at this time may be hard to stomach.”
SMAAC President Jim Spensley said that the major airlines’ reliance on a few major hubs is a high-cost, high-risk strategy. “Overall growth in the US economy and the opening of global markets stratifies competition for Northwest here, and for all cities with a single dominant carrier.” Spensley said. “For domestic travel, Northwest’s high hub costs translate into 40% higher fares to or from MSP, where low-cost airlines have only a 4% market share because they have access to less than 4% of the daily capacity. Unfortunately for Northwest, economic demand for air travel reached a tipping point. Business travel from say, Indianapolis to Denver was provided via United’s hub in Chicago or a Northwest connection here. Once this demand reaches a ‘plane full,’ Frontier or Southwest can offer direct service AND a lower fare. In the interim, Minnesota business travelers find the seat supply booked, blocked, on in demand and must basically out-bid each other. ”
US Senator Mark Dayton wrote the Forum that he believes “both Northwest and the Metropolitan Airports have an obligation ... to residents living (near the airport).” His letter said he was looking forward to working with SMAAC to ensure that the public’s interests are protected. “As you know, I strongly objected to language (in the FAA re-authorization) that ... compromised the commitments made to area residents.”
SMAAC invited elected officials to speak or send remarks to the Forum addressing safety and economics related to further expansion of MSP proposed by Northwest Airlines and Governor Tim Pawlenty. Spensley said a “flurry of messages” reached him from elected officials and staff the last few days. “Most reacted to the MAC’s submittal of its noise compatibility plan last Monday even though the Northwest/Pawlenty plan is likely to change most of its premises.” Spensley said. “Some said that our questions about operational safety and economic impacts were under serious consideration.” He said that “flags were raised” by the appearance that funding committed to noise mitigation was being diverted to benefit Northwest, the lawsuit promised by Minneapolis, and MnDOT Commissioner Molnau’s over-ruling staff recommendations and allowing development in a “safety zone” under the new runway.
SMAAC’s survey said plans to increase peak use of MSP from about 84 operations per hour (in 2001, using two runways) to 140 per hour (in 2007, using three runways) means a 50% reduction in aircraft separations and the use of new Runway 17-35 and the parallels at the same time for up to 11 hours every day, and asked: Are these peak-rate increase are safe and realistic?