• Zurich Airport has introduced a bag-drop zone that is shared by multiple airlines.
Developed by ground aviation specialist Swissport International and aviation technology firm SITA, the 10 common-use counters are for customers of 11 airlines that are members of Star Alliance: Adria Airways, Austrian Airlines, Blue1, BMI, Croatia Airlines, LOT-Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines and TAP-Portugal.
"Common-use bag-drop counters are much more efficient, and the average time passengers spend being processed has dropped to just under 30 seconds," says Anita Elste of Star Alliance, in a statement.
U.S. airports have been slow to embrace common-use facilities, which are popular at Canadian and European airports.
• The Federal Aviation Administration has released more details on how it plans to distribute the additional $1.1 billion that President Obama's stimulus program injected into the FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds.
The FAA guidance requires half of the funds be assigned to projects by June 17 and the rest by Feb. 16, 2010. Priority will be given to projects that can be completed within two years of the stimulus program's enactment, or Feb. 16, 2011.
No single project may receive more than $15 million. No single "sponsor" of the project — typically an aviation authority or a city/county government — may receive more than $20 million. The AIP funds, which are grants provided by the FAA for capital improvement projects that address safety, security, capacity and environmental issues, total about $3.5 billion a year.
• Airports are catching on to the Twitter trend. Baltimore/Washington International now has a Twitter account used to deliver airport status reports and travel information to travelers' smartphones. Twitter is an online service used to send and receive short messages no longer than 140 characters.
BWI says its Twitter account came in handy in providing up-to-the minute information about delays during the heavy snow last week that affected air travel in much of the eastern United States.
• LA/Palmdale Regional Airport near Los Angeles, which closed last month after United Airlines canceled its daily flights to San Francisco, is unlikely to reopen for years if the economy doesn't improve, according to a new report by Los Angeles World Airports, a city agency that operates the airport.
Citing lack of demand, airport officials dropped the sole commercial flight at Palmdale on Dec. 7 and indefinitely abandoned efforts to develop it as a commercial airport. Situated 60 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, Palmdale Regional hoped to attract nearby residents who didn't want to drive to Los Angeles International.
City officials are now debating a possible plan to convert much of the airport's land into a solar power farm capable of generating up to 100 megawatts of energy.
• Delta is renaming its frequent-flier Crown Room airport lounges to Delta Sky Club as part of its merger with Northwest. Northwest's WorldClubs will also be renamed Sky Clubs.
New signs will start appearing next month, and the service offerings of Delta and Northwest clubs will be integrated by early 2010. Members of the clubs can use their current credentials until the end of the year.
• Southwest Airlines has opened its priority security lanes at Seattle-Tacoma. The "Fly By" lanes are dedicated screening lanes for its top-paying customers and frequent fliers. Launched last year, they're available at 64 airports, including Baltimore/Washington, Dallas Love Field and Phoenix Sky Harbor.