Airport Check-in: Businesses, airlines eye air-traffic control

WHAT'S NEW

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has formed a coalition of business, tourism and airline officials to lobby for full funding of initiatives aimed at overhauling the country's air-traffic control system and reducing delays that plague the region's airports.

The newly formed National Alliance to Advance NextGen, as the modernization plan is called, is composed of nearly 100 organizations. NextGen is an advanced Global Positioning System that helps air-traffic controllers move aircraft more efficiently and is a key component in the Federal Aviation Administration's plans to upgrade the national airspace system.

As part of an FAA reauthorization bill, funding for NextGen is expected to require $8 billion to $10 billion for the first 10 years, and $15 billion to $22 billion through 2025, according to the coalition. The group also called for the technology to be deployed in the New York region first, since a large portion of the nation's delays can be traced to three airports — JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty — in the area.

• Even as the nation's air traffic fell, SuperShuttle, the shared van service company, says its business improved in 2008 due to travelers looking for cheaper transportation options to the airport. Its passenger volume at the 11 airports where it has operated at least a year rose by 2.3% from 2007. Air traffic at these airports fell 6.6%, it says.

"We have seen a uptick in passengers from our airline frequent-flier partners," says Ken Testani, SuperShuttle's senior vice president of marketing.

• Atlanta Hartsfield has opened 13 new stores as part of its retail upgrade program, including seven stores in the Atrium main lobby. The new shops include Brooks Bros., Brighton Collectibles, Drugs and More and the Georgia Aquarium's Beyond the Reef. The airport's new retail campaign calls for 70 stores to open by this summer.

• Ryanair, a European low-cost carrier, plans to close its airport check-in desks by early next year, forcing all passengers to print their boarding pass at home. The no-frills airline says having all passengers check in online will lower costs and help the carrier retain its low fares. Passengers will still be able to leave their luggage at a bag drop. The airline currently charges passengers extra to check in at the airport.

• Delta passengers at Memphis International can now use their smartphones to check in and receive an electronic boarding pass. In a program overseen by the Transportation Security Administration, several airlines, including Delta and Continental, have introduced paperless boarding, in which passengers download a bar code to their Web-enabled phones. In Memphis, it's available for domestic travelers on non-stop Delta, Northwest and Delta Connection flights departing from Concourses A, B and C.

ROUTE NEWS

• Delta will add eight routes from Salt Lake City. Starting June 4, the carrier will fly to Bismarck, N.D.; Des Moines; El Paso; Fargo, N.D.; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Nashville; and Sioux Falls, S.D.

• United Airlines will launch Washington, D.C.'s first non-stop service to Moscow on March 29. The flight, which will depart from Washington Dulles five days a week, will be aboard Boeing 767 aircraft.

• AeroMexico is introducing non-stop flights between Atlanta and Cancun for the spring travel season. Starting March 12, flights will depart Atlanta on Monday, Thursday and Sunday, with Cancun departures on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

• Dallas/Fort Worth says it has placed chaise lounges, soft chairs and brightly colored tables at its terminals in an effort "to help people relax and enjoy their trip."

The chairs can be found at Terminal D (Gates 11 and 24), Terminal C (Gate 2), Terminal E (Gate 32) and Terminal B (Gate 28). The airport plans to add more power outlets and seats in the future.

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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