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Sat, Dec 22, 2007

Traffic Again Surges At FLL

Incentives To Lure Airlines Working... Too Well?

October was another banner month for Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, according to traffic numbers released Friday.

Airport officials told the Miami Herald traffic rose 10.1 percent in October, to 1.6 million passengers. That's the fourth time in as many months traffic numbers grew by double-digits.

The biggest spike came in the airport's international service -- an increase of 32.7 percent, to over 178,000 passengers. By comparison, domestic figures rose 7.9 percent to 1.4 million fliers.

Low cost airlines like Spirit Airlines fueled the rapid growth. Spirit's numbers nearly doubled from October 2006, while Frontier and AirTran saw gains of around 32 percent.

The numbers seem to support a decision made by the airport seven years ago, in hopes of luring increased service. As ANN reported, in August 2000 FLL officials decided to waive landing, gate and security fees to airlines which would open new non-stop service. In the years since, FLL has lost $3.7 million dollars in fees... but it increased revenues almost $8 million because of the additional volume, and new routes to Latin America and the Caribbean.

There is some bad news, though, which can be summed up in one increasingly common word: congestions. The international terminal, in particular, is now so crowded that County Commissioner John Rodstrom called the incentive program "a disaster that needs to be dealt with," in comments last month to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"We're so overloaded in Terminal 4 that we shouldn't be allowing any more service to go in there," Rodstrom adds. "We're going to have to start saying no."

Airport Director Kent George says he wants incentives only for service to targeted destinations where more service is needed, such as western Europe and lower South America. A decision to end incentives on other routes would mean increased fares... and, a potential loss of service.



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