Current Feature Stories

When it comes to security, officials at JIA work to ‘harden the target’

March 19, 2017
Cassidy Alexander

Two or three times a week, authorities are called to investigate reports of suspicious people at Jacksonville International Airport. Calls about unattended luggage are nearly constant, they say.

“[Police] don’t mind investigating 100 false reports,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said, “because you never know when there’s going to be one real one.”

A 2013 incident at JIA was real enough. A man walked up to a TSA agent and said, “I got a bomb here.” Before it could be determined that he didn’t, hundreds of people had been evacuated and two-dozen flights canceled or rerouted.

Grossman, who oversees the entire Jacksonville airport system, said his staff continually participates in training exercises and communicates with other security agencies. The goal is to discourage JIA from being targeted in the first place.

“We basically try and harden the target, so to speak, and make it so that a terrorist will think twice before attacking us,” he said.

“Putting it bluntly, if a terrorist comes to the airport, he or she will probably carry out some terrorist activity,” Grossman said. “Our force will stop a person like that, but probably not before they’ve done something.

“You stop it via intelligence,” he said. “You don’t stop it when it pulls up to the terminal.”

Preparing for the worst

Jacksonville International was one of the first airports of its size to have an active shooter drill, Grossman said. The exercise held about 18 months ago involved 400 employees and volunteers, both within and outside the airport. Everyone had a chance to interact and see how things would play out in an actual emergency.

“When the firing started,” Grossman said, “I know I shook a bit.”

The drill was designed to prepare officials for the type of lone-gunman attack that has been seen in isolated incidents at major U.S. airports in recent years.

At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, a man opened fire in a baggage claim area. Five people were killed and more than 30 were injured.

On Nov. 1, 2013, a man moved through a terminal at LAX for 10 minutes with an assault rifle. He shot a TSA officer several times, killing him, before injuring three others.

A collaborative process

Grossman said all airport employees go through annual security training, consisting of an hour-long class, a background check and drills. There’s an on-site police force that works closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and other agencies for support and services it doesn’t have.

Aviation-security expert and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver Jeffrey Price said it’s typical of smaller commercial airports like Jacksonville to rely on outside agencies for support.

“I think with Jacksonville, and every airport that size, I think a lot of them just do what they can,” Price said. “It comes down many times to how much time in the day is there. They have a lot of other things they have to manage.”

According to Price, airports in major cities are more likely to be targeted by terrorists.

“While [a terrorist attack is] unlikely in these smaller airports,” Price said, “I’d never want to say it’s impossible.”

Part of preparing to respond to all types of situations is examining what went wrong when an attack does happen at an airport.

“It’s always better to learn from other people’s mistakes than our own,” Grossman said.

Agencies share information about security measures and what works best. When incidents like those in Fort Lauderdale and at LAX do happen, there are discussions to see what lessons can be learned.

“We have to react to the latest threat that we didn’t anticipate or didn’t do enough about, but we always have to predict the next time,” Price said.

Continuous training and examining how to prevent attacks is only part of the safety system airports have in place – the help of the traveling public makes up a large component.

“If you’re at the airport,” Grossman said, “you’re part of that security program.”


What Do a CEO, an Airport and Golf Have In Common?

March 14, 2017

For Florida’s First Coast, golf and aviation are two symbiotic industries here—both are welcoming, and both are constantly connecting people. Recently we connected with Steve Grossman, Chief Executive Officer of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA), to talk about a golfer’s airport in a golfer’s destination.

A Golfer’s Airport
Ranked first in the nation—among over 300 airports worldwide—for the Airport Service Quality Awards in 2016-2017, the Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) has become the benchmark for customer service in the aviation industry.
Aside from being one of the most hospitable airports in the country, JAX is one of the most attractive airports for golfers flying in.

Here’s why:
No schlepping of golf clubs
Golfers don’t have to shuttle equipment or clubs. Ground transportation services are adjacent to baggage claim, making it convenient for golfers to land, go and golf. JAX is within close proximity to numerous golf courses.
(Jokingly) “My golf bag is full of all the things that don’t always work for me...but currently I have a Callaway Driver, 3-Wood, TaylorMade Hybrids and Irons and my Odyssey Putter in my bag.”

An airport with a golf mentality
Sam Snead’s Tavern, the PGA TOUR Grill (coming in Spring 2017) and the PGA TOUR Shop—where the Players have periodic book and autograph signings—pays homage to Floridians’ love of the game.

Grab and go…then golf
For travelers, there isn’t much of a desire for an over-abundance of time at the airport. Some hub airports provide golf simulators and other time killers to fill a three-hour layover; JAX is accessible with over 82 daily inbound flights, and is conveniently located near numerous golf courses. No need for fancy time fillers here….the real golf is waiting.
A Golfer’s Destination
“During Florida’s shoulder and off seasons, the strengths of our area are: 1. Golf  2. Eco-Tourism. During these seasons, if travelers aren’t coming on business, they are coming for golf or eco-tourism.”
Jacksonville has the most diverse economy in the state of Florida and Northeast Florida gives travelling golfers accessibility to several courses. Recently Florida’s First Coast of Golf was awarded the 2017 North American Golf Destination of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).
Florida’s First Coast is one of the most attractive destinations for golfers.

Here’s why:

North Florida is home to THE PLAYERS Championship, one of the PGA Tour’s most coveted titles. The newly renovated Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass—Ponte Vedra’s most ambitious renovation project—this year, is now opened.

“For most of my life, “Arnie” was always my favorite golfer. I actually got to meet and speak with him at the First Tee Open in Pebble Beach in Monterey. Present day, I really enjoy watching Bubba Watson.”

You can easily afford to be a member of a nice course compared to the expensive offerings on the West Coast and other high-end locations. Golfers can pick their price point and play where they want.

Access of courses
For the most part, traversing locally from course to course typically takes around half an hour or less. Northeast Florida is home to numerous courses. You can take your pick from over 75 miles of coastal golf courses or play the same courses played by THE PLAYERS Championship, PGA and Champions Tour.

Diversity of courses
Northeast Florida provides golfers with access to pristine public and private courses—all are well maintained and offer a diversity of course options. The public courses here are pristine, offering beautiful cart rides through native live oak forests, dripping with spanish moss and large palm ground cover, and native florida wetlands.
“I play most of my golf at Deerwood Country Club but I also enjoy Pablo Creek Club, Palencia Club, Timuquana Country Club and several other public access courses. I like to play early… and often.  If I get the chance, I try to play every Saturday and get in about 100 rounds a year.”
Both golf and aviation connect people, but Northeast Florida golf and aviation connect people to true, one-of-a-kind experiences.

We’d like to thank Steve Grossman for sitting down with us to talk golf and flight! For traveler information, upcoming developments and more about the award-winning Jacksonville International Airport, visit here.


Air Canada to provide daily service from JAX Airport to Toronto this summer

Feb 7, 2017
Junior Skepple,Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority announced Monday that beginning June 14 Air Canada will offer daily non-stop flights to Toronto. This is an expansion of their current weekend-only service, which started May 2016.

The flights, offered once a day, provide customers with connections to European and other Canadian cities.

The updated schedule is now reflected on the Air Canada website.


Jacksonville International Airport Economy Lot 2 closed for overhaul

January 30, 2017
By Drew Dixon

One of the economy parking lots at Jacksonville International Airport is now closed for several months.

The Jacksonville International Aviation Authority in a prepared statement Monday said Economy Lot 2 has been shut down. The closure is in preparation for a new parking system that’s being installed at JIA.

Signage on Pecan Park Road will provide detours for travelers arriving at the airport. Most using economy parking will be directed to Economy Lot 1 which will remain operational as the new parking system is implemented.

Economy Lot 2 is only one of five public parking lots that will undergo the system overhaul at JIA that will range from replacement of gates, equipment payment systems.

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098.


Jacksonville International Airport closes a public parking lot for upgrades

Jan 30, 2017
Junior Skepple, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

One of the five public parking facilities at Jacksonville International Airport is now closed for renovations. The closure is expected to last several months.

Economy Lot 2 is closed in preparation for the installation of a new parking system. Improvements include replacement of all gates and equipment, ability to integrate with SunPass and easy payment using a pay-on-foot station in the terminal or upon exit. In addition, a new license plate recognition system will confirm parking time in the event of a lost ticket.

Once all vehicles exit the lot, crews will clean debris before the project begins in March.

Signage placed along Pecan Park Road will direct customers to park in Economy Lot 1 (E-1), which has parking spaces available. Free shuttle service between E-1 and the terminal will continue to operate as normal.

Anyone with questions or concerns may call the parking office at 904.741.2277.


Jacksonville International Airport launches new app

Jan 23, 2017
Junior Skepple, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

The Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) launched their new “JAX AIRPORT” app, Monday.

The free app, available for both Android and iOS devices, is the hub for all things Jacksonville International Airport.

The app provides flight information, interactive maps, airport news and much more.

The app also lists shops and restaurants at JAX and shows maps of the ticketing, baggage claim and gate areas.

“We strive to enhance the airport experience for our passengers,” Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman said. “With so many people using mobile devices, an airport-specific app seemed to fill a need.”

The app was developed to meet the needs of passengers desiring information on-the-go.

Ticket booking is not yet available through the app, but the app states this feature is coming soon.