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JAA CEO and Sen. Bill Nelson meet to discuss drone regulations at airports

Feb 9, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Sen. Bill Nelson met with several airport officials — including Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman — to discuss the importance of drone regulation, especially when it comes to airport safety.

Sen. Bill Nelson is looking to ramp up federal regulations on drones.

“A drone flying too close to an airport is an accident waiting to happen," Nelson said on Friday after meeting with leaders from statewide airports. "I’ve asked the FAA to increase its efforts to research and test the various technologies being developed to prevent a drone from flying into a sensitive area such as an airport. When it comes to getting these technologies installed at our nation’s airports, time is of the essence.”

Grossman told the Business Journal that Nelson's meeting was to assess what can be done to help airports with the enforcement of regulations on drone technology.

“He wanted to get our opinions of what was going on at airports and how we view the situation,” Grossman said. “He's talking about the need for potential regulations. These things are being sold in the millions and they're out there, but there really isn't much regulation with any teeth in it.”

Those two issues — the prevalence of drones and the question of how to enforce regulations — are some of the big challenges airports are facing, Grossman said.

In fact some airports, like Miami, are passing their own regulations on where drones can and can't be flown in regards to the airport, and are assigning penalties if an unmanned aerial system is being flown in that area.

While that's a possibility in Jacksonville, Grossman said so far it hasn't been necessary. Right now, the rules say that a drone can't be flown within five miles of Jacksonville International Airport or within three miles of Jacksonville's other three airports. But the issue comes with enforcing that and catching up with the technology.

“It could happen if the problem rears its ugly head here,” he said. 'We have not had many incidents at all with drones endangering the area within airports, or at least nothing that can be verified. So if there's not federal action taken or just some state action taken, the regulations will have no meaning and no penalty. If we see drones start to encroach, we might recommend to the city an ordinance be passed just to give JSO authority to do something if they find anything.”

But Grossman said a more cohesive plan — including what Sen. Nelson is trying to bring together — would be more effective.

“We don't want to see a hodgepodge of local regulations,” he said. “Through our industrial associations, we're working with the federal government and state Legislature. We don't want to see individual laws in every city, though.”


New baggage belt helps security at JAX

January 29, 2016
By Bakari Savage - Reporter

A new baggage belt system is helping the Transportation Security Administration administer safety at Jacksonville International Airport.

The main purpose of the new baggage screening system is mainly to check for weapons.

The process of traveling with a weapon starts at the ticket counter where you should declare having the item, before taking your luggage to the bag drop.

The wait times to get through security can be long sometimes because of additional safety checks and this is why it is advised to arrive at the airport well within the recommended time.

“I got here today at like an hour and a half before because I didn't want to miss my flight back to Houston,” said Gay Holt, a traveler at JAX.

Another passenger Mike Riccio said, “I usually try to get there between an hour and two hours.”

With more than two million passengers going through security at JAX last year, almost a ton of weapons were taken, of which 25 were guns.

According to airport officials most of the time it’s because passengers forgot what was in their bag and that’s why you’re asked to declare weapons at check-in.

A $19 million upgraded baggage belt system is helping to make sure weapons don’t slip through.

On the other side of ticketing your luggage is put on the conveyor belt, then goes into the system and into a room where the screening takes place. If everything is OK, your luggage then goes straight to your flight.

JAX Spokesperson Debbie Jones explained what happens if the luggage is not deemed OK.

“The bags get directed to another location. That's where the TSA officers will physically screen the bags to ensure the alarm is resolved,” Jones said. “Once that's done the bag is scanned again and then they're directed back to the carousel.”

Jones said the passenger will know if their bag made it to that screening room because a TSA worker will leave a note in the bag. But, if it’s a serious issue, there is a possibility you could miss your flight.

"The delay comes when people who try to carry weapons through with their carry-ons. That's when there can be a significant delay to other passengers," Jones said. “Because that passenger will have to have a meeting with TSA and law enforcement.” 

News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said that’s because once the item is found, TSA works with local law enforcement to first check if the weapon is stolen.

Once everything is sorted out, then you will be able to continue with your trip. A rule of thumb to avoid any unnecessary delays is to check your bags before you pack.


Here's how Jacksonville airport is going more international

Jan 27, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

In a move to enhance service and improve the experience of any international customers, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is supplying tenants and travelers free interpreting services.

The authority is partnering with Language Line, an over-the-phone translation company that has interpreters for 200 languages on staff 24/7.

In the past, when a traveler would come to Jacksonville International Airport and they weren't proficient in English, the Aviation Authority would use a reference sheet that consisted of staff members and volunteers who might speak other languages. But that system was inefficient, said spokeswoman Debbie Jones, as sometimes a person on the list would not be working when needed, not to mention they couldn't represent even close to the languages a service could.

So although the airport doesn't (see) non-English speaking customers too often, Jones said they wanted to have a solution that was consistent and would enhance service.

“It's not something new we're providing,” she said, “but this is a great enhancement over what we used to have.”

Now, tenants are provided with a sheet that has hundreds of languages represented, all saying the same phrase. When a non-English speaking guest comes, the tenant can show them the sheet, which says the phrase in their native tongue: “Point to your language. An interpreter will be called. The interpreter is provided at no cost to you.”

When the guest points to their language, the tenant can then call the operations department of the airport, who will in turn call Language Line. The customer, tenant and interpreter can then speak in a three-way phone call.

While the service is free to tenants and customers, Jones said the JAA purchased 100 minutes of the service — she said there aren't enough international customers to justify a full subscription. The JAA secured a flat rate of 73 cents per minute, meaning its cost for its full 100 minutes will be just $73.

“We're making sure all our customers have accessibility,” she said. “If you're a non-English speaker, we want to make sure as an airport that we provide that, whether we use it once a year or 25 times a year. It's an enhancement to our last system, which was not reliable or feasible.”

She said over the last few years, needs for translation services have gone up slightly. That number could increase as JIA adds Air Canada to its roster. So far, tenants have been very receptive to the program, which has already been dispersed to them and is now available to guests.

“It's greater coverage, greater access and a much greater field of languages,” Jones said. “It's about accessibility. We're ensuring customers are able to communicate.”


Jacksonville gets direct flight to New Orleans, plus other new destinations

Jan 12, 2016
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Jacksonville residents can get ready to let the good times roll.

The Allegiant Travel Co. is launching three new direct flights to and from Jacksonville International Airport in April — including direct flights to New Orleans.

The new flights, which will also include Richmond, Virginia, and Memphis, Tennessee, are in addition to Allegiant's service to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which started in February last year.

New Orleans flights will be offered starting April 14, and the two other flights will begin April 15.

To celebrate the new flights, the company is offering a special introductory price on Jan. 12 and 13, where each one-way flight costs $39. Following the introductory deal, the airline's average cost for a one-way ticket is about $79.

Allegiant, an ultra-low-cost airline based in Las Vegas, focuses on providing leisure travel to underserved markets. When the airline started flights to Jacksonville last year, it told the Business Journal it did so because of Jacksonville's opportunity as an affordable vacation spot for people who would have to drive if it weren't for Allegiant's cost-savvy flight options.

With the addition of the new flights, Allegiant is looking to build on that.

“We have an analyst team constantly evaluating travel patterns and new route opportunities,” said Stephanie Pilecki, public relations specialist for Allegiant. “We had demand for those flights to New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, and we took the opportunity to fill that demand. With the economic climate as good as it is, we decided to launch them starting in spring.”

Flights will be offered year-round, with two flights a day twice weekly. New Orleans flights will take place Thursdays and Sundays, while travelers can fly to Richmond or Memphis on Fridays and Mondays.

With the new service, Pilecki said the company estimates it will be responsible for bringing 50,000 new visitors to the First Coast.

And if the services are successful, she said the company could look at adding more locations accessible from Jacksonville.

“We will definitely focus on our new route announcements to make them as successful as possible,” she said. “And if they are, we will look into expansion. The key to looking at new opportunities is making these new flights super successful.”

Jensen covers logistics, trade manufacturing and defense.


Allegiant adding three nonstop flights to and from Jacksonville

Tue, Jan 12, 2016
By Roger Bull

Allegiant Air is adding three new flights from Jacksonville. Starting in April, the airline will begin nonstop flights between Jacksonville International Airport and New Orleans, Memphis and Richmond, Va.

The discount airline has its flights on limited days. Its only current flights in and out of JIA are Pittsburgh on Monday and Friday and Cincinnati on Sunday and Thursday.

Similarly, flights to Memphis and Richmond will be on Monday and Friday, while New Orleans’ flights will be Sunday and Thursday

The airline advertises flights starting at $39, but one local travel agent said that figure can quickly rise.

“They advertise one fare, but they charge you for everything,” said Sandy Harbison of Avondale Travel. “They charge you for a checked bag, a carry-on, you pay for your seat assignment. If you haven’t printed your boarding pass at home, you have to pay for that at the airport.

“There’s even an extra charge if you add another bag after you first booked your flight.”

Harbison said she’s never flown Allegiant, but has booked it for customers who have been satisfied with it.

JIA currently has no nonstop flights to and from New Orleans, Memphis or Richmond.

“New Orleans is very significant,” Harbison said. “We have a lot of business that goes back and forth. Southwest used to have a flight, Continental used to have one.”

Passengers now have to go through Atlanta or Houston to get to New Orleans.

The new JIA routes were three of 19 that Allegiant announced on Tuesday, including four from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Lexington, Ky.

The airline has flights to 69 cities from Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296


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