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Transportation Nation

Nose Gear Collapse Under Review in Southwest Airlines Rough-Landing

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WNYC

The Nation Transportation Safety Board is reviewing the data and cockpit voice recorder of Southwest Flight 345 to determine why the front landing gear collapsed upon landing Monday night. 

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Transportation Nation

Houston City Council Approves Plans for International Terminal at Hobby Airport

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

(Houston, TX — Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  The nation's fourth-largest city will have a second international airport, now that the city council has approved plans for Southwest Airlines' new terminal at Hobby Airport. The 16-1 vote gives the discount carrier the go-ahead to build five new gates and a customs facility at Hobby to accommodate flight to Mexico and the Carribean. Southwest hopes to begin those flights in 2015.

The vote came despite the protests of United Airlines, the main tenant at Houston's larger hub airport, Bush Intercontinental. As part of a massive PR campaign against the plan, United presented city officials with a study saying a split international gateway would cost the local economy about $300 million. The carrier says it would also be forced to cut over 1,000 jobs, reduce flights, and drop its plans for a new $700 million terminal at Bush. That's in contrast to a study from the Houston Airport System which says international service at Hobby would translate into a $1.6 billion economic gain as well as cheaper flights for travelers.

Hobby is the smaller of Houston's two commercial airports, handling just under 10 million passengers in 2011. Bush Intercontinental handled about 40 million.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker called the vote a big win for Houston and the traveling public. "Competition will lead to jobs, lower fares, and a positive economic impact for the city. My goal is a strong international presence at Hobby and a continued strong presence at Bush Airport. We will also continue our commitment to ensuring there is adequate customs and immigration staffing at Bush and at Hobby when international service begins there in 2015."

Employees and executives packed city council chambers to witness the vote, with supporters from Southwest dressed in yellow t-shirts and United's contingent in blue.

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Transportation Nation

United Fights to Quash Uppity Southwest in Houston

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

(photo: MichaelB in Houston via flickr/creative commons)

Remember Freddie Laker? Sorry to tell you some of us at Transportation Nation do. At least one of us flew New York to London for something under $100 bucks while in college. But the no-frills airline entrepreneur went belly-up as the big airlines, with deeper pockets, were able to reduce their fares until he gasped for air.

The latest iteration of this struggle is happening in Houston, where Southwest Airlines is trying to get permission to fly international flights to a smaller, closer-in airport -- with United pulling out the big guns to beat back that effort.

Our Gail Delaughter, of KUHFhas the story, on Marketplace.

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Transportation Nation

United Battles Southwest To Maintain Hold On Houston

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Hobby Airport in Houston. Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  Houston City Council staffers had to set up spillover rooms for hundreds of airline employees and executives who converged on City Hall for a contentious meeting on a proposed international hub at Hobby Airport.

Southwest Airlines wants to build a $100 million international terminal at Hobby, the smaller of the city's two major airports, and it's looking at funding the project through a $1.50 fee on tickets. The new terminal would include a customs facility along with five gates that would accommodate flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. Southwest hopes to get those flights off the ground in the next three years.

Opposed to the plan is United Airlines, the biggest tenant at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. The legacy carrier has launched a massive lobbying effort to try to convince the city that international service out of Hobby would harm the local economy.

Houston city officials are faced with two different studies on the economic impact of a second international terminal. A study commissioned by the city says international service at Hobby would create about 10,000 jobs and pump $1.6 billion into the local economy. But according to a study by United -- which is opposed to Southwest's plans -- the city would take a $300 million hit and lose close to 4,000 jobs.

United recently broke ground on a $700 million dollar terminal at Bush, and officials told the City Council the airline may rethink its plans if Southwest is allowed to proceed with international flights at Hobby. United's senior VP of financial planning, John Gebo, says a second international airport would force United to cut flights and move some of its operations to other hubs.

"Houston has built a very, very strong connecting hub complex at Intercontinental over the course of the last 40 years," he says. "And what that hub complex brings to the city is for the ability for airlines, including United, to offer a larger number of flights and a larger number of direct destinations than would be possible from the population of the city alone."

Bush Intercontinental is a sprawling complex 23 miles north of downtown Houston that handled about 40 million passengers in 2011. Hobby Airport is a smaller facility 12 miles to the south that saw just under 10 million. Passengers have convenient access to Hobby's terminal from an adjoining parking garage -- or they can even walk to the airport from the nearby neighborhoods. Gebo says passengers on the south side of town may not be happy about making the long drive to Bush if they're flying out of the country, but he maintains those passengers would lose in the long run if international service comes to Hobby.

"We'd like to be able to offer convenient departure times and convenient flights to everyone as would Southwest and as would all the other carriers that fly out of Intercontinental.  But I think what I would tell the customers on the south side of the city is that you will get more service to more destinations with a strong hub than with a split hub.  So while you might get some additional destinations from the Hobby expansion, you'll lose more destinations from Intercontinental and on the whole, the city will not have as many options as it does today."

Southwest CEO Gary Kelley told Houston city officials that the low-cost airlines has always had to battle the legacy carriers for a place in the market. Kelley recounted Southwest's fight to reopen Hobby Airport in 1971, two years after traffic started flying out of Bush Intercontinental. Continental Airlines, recently acquired by United, was one of the carriers that fought in court to keep Southwest out of Texas.

Houston City Attorney David Feldman says the city has an obligation to negotiate with Southwest Airlines "to provide reasonable access to Hobby Airport."  In his legal opinion, Feldman says the city needs to base its decision on whether the airport property can handle another terminal, and if there would be a negative impact on the environment and the surrounding neighbor. He says the city cannot reject Southwest's plans based on economic projections.

The Houston City Council is expected to vote on the issue later this month.

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The Takeaway

Reassessing Airline Maintenance

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Sacramento bound Southwest Airlines flight declared an in flight emergency on Friday when five feet of paneling ripped out of the 737's ceiling. Flight 812 made a rapid descent from its cruising altitude of 36,000 feet down to 11,000 feet and later landed safely at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station.  

In the recent past, airlines have been caught being lax in their adherence to maintenance inspections. In 2008, the FAA levied a $7.5 million penalty against Southwest for its failure to do mandatory inspections for fuselage fatigue on some of its planes. Southwest wasn't the only airline.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NTSB To Look At Discount Bus Industry, South Korea Upgrades HSR, And British Posties Dismount

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chinatown bus (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a comprehensive review of the discount bus industry and the safety regulations governing it following a crash in the Bronx last month that left 15 passengers dead. (New York Times)

Inspectors have found small, subsurface cracks in three more Southwest Airlines planes that are similar to those suspected of causing a jetliner to lose pressure and make a harrowing emergency landing in Arizona. (AP via Washington Post)

South Korea will expand and upgrade its high speed train network over the next 9 years to cut travel time from the capital to major cities to under an hour and a half. (AFP)

Los Angeles will start testing its Expo Line; trains may formally roll in Westside in November. (Los Angeles Times)

Posties -- British mail carriers -- have been ordered to stop delivering mail via bicycle in a bid to cut down accidents and speed up delivery times. (The Mirror)

The Chicago Transit Authority is trying to revamp how it leases retail space on its properties, because "sixty-six of the 137 concession spaces at CTA rail stations are vacant." (Chicago Tribune)

Are bicycles more like cars or pedestrians? Discuss. (New York Times)

Transportation Nation stories we're working on:  despite loud protest on both sides, bike lane poll numbers remain remarkably stable, only a minority wants Prospect Park West bike lane removed entirely.   Congress may actually reauthorize FAA funding bill; LI buses saved, for now, Orlando suburban  businesses kill plan to add a median to a busy roadway, arguing it would impede customer access to their shops, and transportation proves extremely popular in NYC big apps contest.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amnesty for MTA Scofflaws, Moving day for Masdar, and Traffic-Clogged cities team up

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New York City MTA, in an effort to encourage scofflaws to pay up, has declared October to be late-fee amnesty month for subway and bus riders who have received tickets (New York Post). Meanwhile, lawmakers give the MTA a "B" for its work on the Second Avenue Subway (New York Daily News). And: this weekend saw planned work on nearly every subway line, culminating in the largest MTA shuttle bus deployment ever (Gothamist).

People have begun moving into Masdar, Abu Dhabi's "zero-carbon" experimental city--where the ground level was elevated 23 feet so that a fleet of electric vehicles could operate below the surface. (New York Times)

Southwest Airlines to buy rival AirTran, expand service on East Coast.  (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood says that this year the Department of Transportation has "completed more NTSB safety recommendations than in any of the last five years" (Fast Lane).  But: a recent investigation found that "Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel because of government delays in acting on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board." (Washington Post)

The Transport Politic takes a look at the long-term consequences the recession has had upon urban transit agencies.

Los Angeles and Beijing are teaming up to share ideas on dealing with traffic. (AP)

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