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Yeager Airport to create third-party standards

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ever felt that a ground crew or airline representatives at Yeager Airport didn't meet your expectations?

If so, airport officials hope to address that issue by creating a set of minimum service standards for third-party airline workers.

The airport's board of directors discussed the issue at its regular meeting Wednesday.

For smaller airports like Yeager, some airline workers are actually employed by third-party companies hired by a given airline, instead of the airline itself. And while workers employed directly by the airline are subject to service standards, that's not always the case with third-party workers.

"We have leases with airlines, but the airlines don't operate ground handling or customer service," Airport Director Rick Atkinson said.

Other companies that operate at the airport, like rental car companies and restaurants, already have minimum service standards spelled out in contracts. Those standards dictate what kinds of services must be provided and employee dress code, among other things.

The airport itself also has service standards for its own employees.

"We want to make sure the quality of service provided by the airlines is keeping with the quality of service provided by the airport," Atkinson said.

Minimum service standards for third-party workers could include set timeframes by which passengers should leave gated aircraft or obtain checked luggage.

Customer service representatives could also be required to be on-duty within so many minutes before a flight departs and after a flight lands.

Atkinson said it's important to have uniform standards throughout the airport because though an outside company could be to blame for a passenger's bad experience, the passenger is likely to blame the airport itself.

"People don't care whose fault it is," he said.

Board member Priscilla Haden said applying minimum standards to third-party outfits was an "excellent" idea.

Atkinson said other smaller airports are in the same situation, and this has been a recent topic in the industry.

"This is not an issue that is unique to the Yeager Airport," he said. "Airlines recognize that, and I think airports will move that way."

The airport can enforce the standards by requiring they be part of operating permits for the third-party companies.

In other business, the airport board:

* Received an update on the hill removal project on the south end of the main runway.

Rick Holes, of L. Robert Kimball, an architecture and engineering firm tasked with the project, said the company is 80 days into the 600-day project.

He said land acquisition and tree removal is complete.

"Things are moving along pretty well," he said.

The project will result in the removal of about 100 feet of earth from the top of the hill. The hill's reduced height will allow planes taking off from Yeager to meet new federal rules that require aircraft to ascend a certain amount of feet upon takeoff in case of engine trouble.

The hill causes heavy planes to be unable to ascend to the proper height upon takeoff.

The hill previously held a few houses in the past, but those homes were demolished before the project began. However, a few streets and utility lines remained and had to be removed by the contractor, said board member Charlie Jones.

The city of Charleston is also in the process of abandoning the street that used to connect those homes, since the route was a dead-end and is now surrounded by land owned by the airport and the NorthGate Business Park.

* Approved an expenditure of about $80,000 to repair a small dip that has formed on Taxiway A.

* Discussed a recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that ranked Yeager the second best connected non-hub airport in the nation, featured in the Daily Mail on Nov. 22.

"People don't know how well-connected we are here," said Brian Belcher, Yeager's director of marketing and air service development.

Belcher said if the report had been conducted after the airport gained a non-strop flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, he thinks the airport may have been ranked No. 1.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him on Twitter @DMLocalGov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ DailyMailLocalGov

 


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