Heightened security at Salt Lake International Airport has hurt business there, and the director will ask federal authorities to ease some security restrictions.
Airport security has been at level 4 - the highest security level defined by the Federal Aviation Administration - since war broke out in the Persian Gulf. To deter terrorist attacks, the airport has increased the number of security guards and dogs on duty in the terminals and in the airfield. Also, concourses are restricted to ticketed travelers, reducing business for some concessionaires.It has cost the airport $1,200 a day, not counting the loss in revenue from concessions and parking. And if it keeps up until the end of its fiscal year in June, the airport may have to "eat" $70,000 to pay for it, airport finance director John Wheat told the Airport Authority Board meeting Wednesday.
Airport director Louis E. Miller said the FAA is evaluating its blanket security mandate to see if adjustments can be made at certain airports in the country.
"I think we have a chance," Miller said.
But board vice chairwoman Elaine Weis doubted the FAA would ease security anywhere. She said the trend is to tighten security and not give the impression there are any weak links in the system.
Increased security expenses have exacerbated tough times for the airport.
By Dec. 31, 1990, or the end of the first half of the fiscal year, interest from construction financing forced airport net income down 24.6 percent from the same period a year before. Also, for the calendar year 1990, passenger traffic was up a paltry 0.7 percent from 1989.
Miller said the sluggish year doesn't come as a surprise as parking construction and increased security have discouraged people from patronizing the airport. And the airline industry itself is struggling.
"Nationally, traffic is down because people are not flying as much," Miller said, noting the months since tensions rose in the Middle East have been the worst.
But Miller added the airport's woes won't last long. He said completion of the $33 million parking plaza and Terminal 2 in the next fiscal year will turn things around by cutting interest expense and increasing revenues from parking and rent.