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"St. Louis Airport Chief Says American Cuts Won't Stop Runway Construction"


 
Wednesday, August 14, 2002

St. Louis Airport Chief Says American Cuts Won't Stop Runway
Construction
The St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch


Lambert Field Director Leonard Griggs said Tuesday that American
Airlines' cost-slashing measures won't halt the construction of a new
airport runway.

"We are not curtailing anything," Griggs said of the controversial
runway project. "We have made very good progress. We are on schedule and
hopefully this will continue and we will be done on target."

Just as they did after Trans World Airlines filed for bankruptcy
protection and after the air-travel slowdown since Sept. 11, airport
officials insisted the 9,000-foot runway is on solid financial ground.

American announced Tuesday that it plans to eliminate 7,000 jobs, reduce
flights by 9 percent systemwide, and retire part of its airplane fleet.
Griggs and airline officials downplayed the impact on St. Louis.

That includes the controversial runway project known as W-1W.

Financing for the runway and other expansion projects totaling $1.1
billion to $1.4 billion was based on conservative projections, airport
sources said Tuesday.

Financial forecasts even weighed the possibility that TWA would go
bankrupt and the airport would lose up to 40 percent of its flights. So
far, the losses haven't been that drastic.

Lambert insists that it needs the third parallel runway to prevent
crippling flight delays during periods of bad weather. The runway is
scheduled to be complete by 2005 and open in 2006.

Still, many other airport operators throughout the United States have
halted or scaled back major projects, including runways.

Bridgeton Mayor Conrad Bowers said nobody is screaming for more runways
to ease flight delays any more. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,
airlines cut back their daily flight schedules around the country.

"We said from Day One that W-1W was going to be a financial stretch,"
Bowers said. "This makes it a tighter stretch."

What Lambert needs more, Bowers said, is a new terminal and that will
require new environmental studies.

Griggs said he recently talked to American Airlines property officials
about going ahead with efforts to rehabilitate the passenger terminals
by replacing carpets and furnishings.

"American is taking steps to try to make that airline profitable,"
Griggs said.

American Airlines spokeswoman Julia Bishop-Cross said the airline
doesn't expect major schedule changes at American's Lambert Field hub,
but acknowledged that detailed flight schedules are not available.

"We aren't expecting major schedule changes here in St. Louis,"
Bishop-Cross said.

American and American Connection now have 430 flights a day out of
Lambert. In July 2001 -- two months before the Sept. 11 attacks -- the
airline and its regional carrier Trans World Express averaged 522 daily
departures.

As for the new runway, the debt won't be passed along to American and
other airlines operating at Lambert until 2006.


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