The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors announced last week their intentions to proceed with plans to expand the Sacramento International Airport. In order to fund the construction, per passenger fees charged by airlines will be raised from $6 on average to $9.
The plan has been in development for nearly a decade and focuses on modernizing Terminal B. Designs show a new, multi-level structure with an “arrivals” floor with baggage claims, a “departures” floor for passenger check-in and a security checkpoint and a “transfers” floor, where passengers can be transported to where the gates will be located.
The plan also includes a hotel and a new parking garage.
The Terminal Modernization Plan carries a considerable price tag, projected at over $1 billion. While airport officials have sold hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds, the County Supervisors have unanimously decided to raise per passenger fees to the airlines to offset some of the cost.
It is a decision that has several airlines worried. United, Delta, Southwest, Alaska and Horizon Airlines all attended the Board of Supervisors meeting to voice their concerns.
“We are looking at record high fuel prices; the industry is in a great deal of turmoil. A lot of airlines are reducing service, a lot of airlines are merging,” said Marilee McInnis, a spokesperson for Southwest on Thursday, two days after the meeting. “We are always looking to find ways to make our airline more cost efficient, and we feel that the new [modernization] plan is not fiscally responsible.”
Airlines are currently charged landing fees on an average of $6 per passenger, but will see an increase in July to an average of $9 per passenger. The fee will continue to go up incrementally to over $13 in the year 2013, and then will gradually decrease.
If the new fees are put in effect, it would place the airport in the top four most expensive airports to which Southwest flies, McInnis said.
“If the fees increase, we might have to reduce our service to Sacramento International Airport.”
McInnis stressed that the airlines and the airport are not at odds with one another.
“We have a shared interest with the airport. We both want the same thing, which is a modern airport at a reasonable cost,” she said.
Despite the plans to move forward with the fee increase, Supervisor Don Nottoli said the Board of Supervisors is discussing a solution with the airlines.
“It is our goal to reach an agreement with the air carriers on the financing approach for the construction and renovation projects at Sacramento International,” Notoli said in an e-mail. “I remain hopeful that we can find common ground on this issue and in working together to meet the needs of the millions of people who travel through Sacramento International every year.”
The per passenger fee increase is expected to be ratified in the next couple weeks and will go into effect in July.
According to plans on the Sacramento International Airports website, construction on the project could start as soon as later this year, and the new terminal is planned to open in June 2011.
J. DANA STUSTER can be reached at email@example.com.