Recently, there have been a couple very interesting stories coming out of Logan International, that “other” airport owned by Massport.
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!
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.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) December 19, 2016
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.