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Reno-Tahoe passenger traffic stalled

Anne Knowles

Air traffic at Reno-Tahoe Airport hasn’t

entirely recovered from the Sept. 11 fallout

and isn’t likely to improve any time soon.

In October, there was an average of 81

daily departures at the airport. That’s

down from 83 daily departures before

Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Airport

Authority. The average so far for

November, though, is 78 daily departures,

and the projection for January is just 75,

said Tom Medland, director, marketing

and air service development at the Airport

Authority.

Reno Airport is suffering along with

the rest of the nation’s commercial air

industry. Airlines have lost between $5 billion

and $7 billion since the 2001 terrorist’s

attack, and are still losing between $6

million and $9 million every day, said

Medland.

National Airlines, which had four daily

departures from Reno, just went out of

business. Frontier Airlines recently

dropped one of its Reno flights. And most

other airlines that fly into and out of the

airport are reporting passenger loads

between 61 percent and 91 percent.

There are a few bright spots, said

Medland. Continental Airlines is planning

to add some flights in March and April for

the ski season. Reno-Tahoe is now ranked

17 on Southwest Airlines top 50 domestic

nonstop markets. And air travel nationwide

is expected to jump 6.5 percent during

the Thanksgiving holiday.

Another silver lining is an increase in

charter traffic. For the first nine months

charter passengers to the airport totaled 19,000, up

21 percent from 15,688 passengers during the same

period last year. The number of international charter

passengers plummeted, from 680 in 2001 to just 108

through October this year. But the number of

domestic charter passengers jumped 26 percent,

from 15,008 last year to 18,892 this year.

The airport is also in the process of meeting the

Dec. 31 deadline to provide security screening for all

baggage. The project is to comply with the federal

Aviation and Transportation Security Act that created

the Transportation Security Administration.

The airport will be installing explosive detection

systems to screen baggage throughout the airport.

That equipment includes 36 Ionscan 400B systems

that fit on a desktop; two, 26-foot CTX-5500 that

weigh 9,350 pounds each; and five, 20-foot CTX-

2500s that weigh 7,350 pounds each. The two larger

machines will be dedicated to Southwest and

American Airlines.

About 350 federal employees will eventually be

employed to handle the baggage screening. Most of

the costs of the program, including equipment and

personnel, will be borne by TSA. But the airport

plans to install a canopy in the front of the airport to

protect passengers from inclement weather during

curbside check in. The cost of that is estimated to be

$1.5 million.

The airport is also installing a new carpet and

new signage and the concessions area is in the midst

of a $6 million upgrade. Most of that has been

financed with private money, said Krys Bart, executive

director of the Airport Authority.

Meanwhile, the Reno-Sparks Convention and

Visitors Authority is doing what it can to book trade

shows and conventions that bring in air passengers

and room stays. Next year the convention center will

host several adventure-related shows that will bring

in more than 13,000 attendees.

Reno is also under consideration for the ESPN

Great Outdoors Game in July, which would attract

over 100,000 people. ESPN officials were in town

last week and RSVCA expects a decision from them

by early December, said Jeff Beckelman, president

and CEO, RSCVA.

The convention center has also booked a number

of other trade shows for next year, such as the

Computer Crimes Conference in May, but

Beckelman warned that they are so-called launch

shows and only one out of five such inaugural shows

are successful.

In the long term, the RSCVA has scheduled the

American Legion conference in 2007, which should

bring with it 18,000 attendees; the National Parks

and Recreation meeting in 2004 that should have

10,000 attendees; and the Hearth Products trade

show in 2009 that is expected to attract 10,000 people

to the convention center.


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