Airport Check-in: New Orleans can go private

New Orleans Armstrong International has received federal approval for its preliminary application to become a private airport, a move that could bring the city a sudden cash windfall but strip it of its oversight and operational rights.

Airport officials submitted the application last month to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is overseeing a trial program to privatize up to five U.S. airports.

New Orleans Armstrong officials can now begin to look for private investors who are willing to pay a large sum of money to own the airport in a long-term lease. The investor-owner would keep the profits from running the airport. The airport says it will select the bidder with the highest and best bid.

"The airport, the board and the staff are looking at all possible avenues," airport spokeswoman Michelle Wilcut says.

Once the airport selects a private operator, it'll submit its final application to the FAA. To complete the process, it will also require approval from the city council and 65% of its airline tenants. The airport hopes to submit its final application by the fall of 2010. The FAA's attempt to privatize airports has been slow to get off the ground. Chicago Midway is the only other airport that has been given approval for privatization, but it has had difficulty finding a private investor with enough money.

San Francsico International has installed kiosks that allow travelers to buy carbon offsets designed to mitigate the environmental impact of their air travel.

The city says the proceeds will go to fund projects that result in "real, quantifiable, permanent greenhouse gas emission reductions."

Look for the kiosks post-security in the international terminal and Terminal 3. An offset for a 2,000-mile trip will cost about $11.50.

Boston Logan is giving a $3 million loan to Delta to buy battery-powered baggage cart tugs and conveyor belt vehicles, part of the airport's efforts to decrease dependence on gasoline and reduce emissions.

Delta will buy 50 electric baggage cart tugs, 25 electric baggage conveyor belt vehicles and charging stations for each vehicle. Boston Logan is providing the loan because of the "lack of access to capital markets" for Delta.

Thirteen more aiports are adopting a federal program designed to allow "trusted travelers" to quickly clear Customs.

To enroll in the so-called Global Entry program, travelers must submit an application and undergo an interview and a background check. The fee is $100 for five years.

Once applicants are cleared, they can use the automated kiosks at Customs, run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, that allow travelers to input their fingerprints, take digital photos and answer questions.

The program began last year and has been deployed at several large airports, including New YorkJohn F. Kennedy, Los Angeles, Chicago O'Hare and Atlanta. Other entrants in the program include Boston, Newark, Dallas, Las Vegas and Detroit.

ROUTE NEWS

Midwest Arlines says it will launch non-stop service between Milwaukee and St. Louis beginning March 1. The airline will offer three daily round-trip flights on 37-seat Embraer 135 aircraft.

Frontier Airlines on Nov. 21 will add non-stop service between Denver and Fort Myers, Fla., with four weekly round-trip flights. On Dec. 19, Frontier also will add non-stop Saturday-only service between Cancun and both Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Porter Airlines began providing three daily round-trip flights between Boston Logan and Toronto's downtown City Centre Airport. It's the Canadian airline's third U.S. destination, following Newark Liberty and Chicago Midway. The airline will use Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

Every Monday, we report on the latest news in airports across the USA. See something noteworthy in your travels? E-mail your suggestions to ryu@usatoday.com.

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