January 1, 2017

Randell: As Logan sets records, Worcester Airport almost ready to soar

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Wikimedia Commons/Terageorge

Worcester Regional Airport

Recently, there have been a couple very interesting stories coming out of Logan International, that “other” airport owned by Massport.

Bill Randell

Bill Randell

Thomas Glynn, CEO of Massport, announced last Wednesday that Logan had reached 36 million passengers passing through the gates in 2016. This is not only a new high, but the seventh straight year Boston’s airport has set a record. Think about that for a second:

Thirty-six million passengers!

Earlier last month, however, I read this from Bloomberg News, via the Boston Globe, from J.D. Power’s annual satisfaction survey of North American airports, placing Logan among the worst nationally:

Few places offer as much decrepitude, congestion, or inconvenience as LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports, both of which are warrens of passenger misery. These two took top ‘‘honors’’ as the lowest-ranked North American airports in the 2016 J.D. Power study of airport satisfaction. Boston’s Logan, Chicago’s O’Hare, and Philadelphia airport rounded out the bottom five. They were ranked on a 1,000 point scale based on responses from more than 36,000 travelers who made a round-trip flight between January and October.

 

Logan’s record-breaking growth each year with declining customer satisfaction is the perfect storm for Worcester Regional Airport (ORH). Thomas Glynn is also a very smart man and surely realizes this is not a good combination for Logan, despite last week’s pomp and circumstance.

What exactly are his options?

  • Stop setting records for new passengers and discourage new service;
  • Further expansion at Logan;
  • Build another tunnel;
  • Look to Worcester, where only about 120,0000 passengers travel per year.

The only answer to this problem, obviously, is Worcester, which makes Massport’s decision to outright buy Worcester Regional look better every day. If the solution is so obvious, then why hasn’t Massport already started moving more flights to Airport Hill? The answer, again, is very simple: CAT III.

CAT III is the Category III instrument landing system being installed at Worcester Regional that will modernize the airport’s technology and allow it to attract more service.

According to Massport, “The new CAT III equipment and infrastructure upgrades will allow for aircraft to land … under virtually all weather conditions when the visibility conditions are below the current ceiling height of 200 feet and less than 1,800-foot runway visibility. Currently, pilots must divert to other airports for landing when the conditions are below those visibility requirements.”

It’s always been frustrating that Worcester has been a landing system away from greatness. We wasted years on useless studies and consultants, building new terminals, contemplating access roads and name changes. Remember MetroWest-Worcester-Boston airport? In retrospect, we would have been much better off with the old terminal and CAT III already here.

A little while back, with my sights trained on an April start to CAT III-guided service, I made a handful of predictions, one involving Rectrix that quickly came true! Well, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for our transformational landing system: a Massport spokesman said late last week,  “weather permitting, construction will continue through the winter season and we’ll [be] on target for a December 2017 commissioning date.”

In the meantime — because it still amazes me how few people within an hour’s drive have no idea Worcester has any flights at all — until CAT III is here, Massport needs to spend more money advertising the benefits of Logan’s sister airport:

  • No traffic;
  • No tunnel;
  • Short check-in lines;
  • Short TSA lines;
  • $42 per week parking rates;
  • JetBlue direct flights to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Lastly, the City Council needs to look at the example of this previously city-owned asset that used to cost the taxpayers money. Now it costs us nothing and will yield huge returns moving forward. The city never would have been able to invest the money that Massport has since taking ownership.

And with the perfect storm brewing down the Pike, it should only be a matter of time before Worcester Regional is really ready to take off.

Bill Randell served on a PILOT task force for then-Mayor Tim Murray and is a current member of the Holden Town Meeting Finance Committee. Bill started and operates the local news website Worcester Herald, and is the owner and author of FlyORH, a website dedicated to Worcester Airport. He is also president and founder of Worcester-based businesses Advantage Benefits and ABG Real Estate.

11 thoughts on “Randell: As Logan sets records, Worcester Airport almost ready to soar

    • I used to fly out of Worcester many years ago when there were many more airlines to choose from ( Piedmont, US Air…etc). I would fly into Philadelphia or Baltimore and could go to anywhere from there. I think it’s a total shame that Worcester Airport is not fully utilized. The excuses over the years are just a waste time. By the way, everyone worried about access roads, give me a break, how about getting to Logan many years ago with one tunnel and sometimes not making your flight because you couldn’t get through the tunnel. I live within 2 miles of Worcester Airport and I love to hear the plane engines roar over my home. My Grandson loves to see the planes coming in for a landing. I can’t wait to hear more someday and with more flights to other destinations. I think Worcester Airport is a real asset to the people of Worcester County and surrounding communities. Also, just another note, it would be wonderful if a restaurant would move in and make Worcester Airport a destination other than just taking a flight. It would bring awareness of what a nice spot it really is and we can watch the planes land and takeoff while having breakfast or lunch. If you’ve ever been up there around sunset, it’s a beautiful view. Sounds a bit old fashion, but what nice memory to grow up with as kids and feel the excitement, as I still do. Southbridge is small but they have the right idea with the Blue Max Diner Café. I look forward to taking my little ones there to watch the “Planes” land and take off . The little thrills of life still affordable, and something my Grandchildren will remember. Worcester deserves more recognition than what has be given and should stand on it’s own name. I think MassPort has failed on some of their promises.
      Let’s get Worcester Soaring sooner than later!!

      • Excellent post. The restaurant was a huge draw for the old terminal. Once CAT III is up and running, and we can get a hub (Jetblue to JFK, United to O’Hare or IAD, Southwest to BWI), there’s no looking back!

  1. I fly in and out of Logan 10 plus times a year and never a problem getting to or from,there are immense amenities while waiting for a flight and the selections of carriers is excellent to all places in the World….what are the issues making it so customer unfriendly?

  2. Worcester must add many more destinations, another major airline (like Southwest) and many, many more flights. Bob Bart.

  3. Bill
    Enjoy your read on ORH! Just wish
    You could jump start the cat 3 system. We love ORH and JetBlue.
    A real score for central MA

  4. Thank you for the informatable article, hope someday Worcester will have flights again to Myrtle Beach. Miss the days of flying ooutvofcWorcester to Myrtle.

  5. Would love to see flights to Myrtle Beach, hope this will be a possibility in the future.
    Thank You for the article, it gives hope for Worcester Airport and those living in Central Mass.

  6. I think it’s time for everone to lobby for the airport Access Road … it’s only about 3 miles of Road and would do wonders for airport access. Lets stop thinking small…. worcester

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