I recently found on my computer this photo taken during a trip to Gibraltar in 2005:


This is the barrier where the sole road into Gibraltar crosses the airport’s runway. (The airport terminal is in the background in this photo.) The road and walkway are closed during the few times a day when a plane is landing or taking off. I case you can’t see clearly, the signs say:

Pedestrians are to keep within the white lines.
Please cross quickly.

Litter can cause aircraft accidents.
Put your litter in the red bins.
Keep the runway clear.

It’s a bit surreal walking across an active runway. Gibraltar is a great aviation destination. Below the fold are a few photos from the terminal, through which my traveling companion and I departed the Mediterranean coast and returned to London.

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I’ve done several off-blog items on the subject of international airline alliances lately. Here they are:

  • The FAA is attempting to temper the effects on passengers of its safety oversight, especially after last year’s regulatory overkill. [Aero-News.Net]
  • Southwest announces its first service into a slot-constrained airport: LaGuardia. Big step for the airline. [Nuts about Southwest]
  • The rush is on to hire more air traffic controllers as waves of them retire, but the controllers’ union says there are still too few being hired and that many of those that have been hired recently are of “low caliber.” [Today in the Sky]
  • How American is Virgin America? Oberstar asks. [ATW Daily News]
  • The privatization of Midway Airport is stalled as investors have trouble rounding up the necessary funds. There’s not a lot of capital for private-sector infrastructure projects right now. [Middle Seat Terminal]

The Dutch travel tax has been so successful, it has to be scrapped:

The Dutch Government is to scrap from July 1 its air passenger ticket tax, first dubbed the ‘eco’ tax when it was introduced against major opposition by aviation and local industry last year. The controversial departure tax, which ranges from 11 to 45 euros, is blamed for a steep decline in passenger traffic at the main Dutch airports, particularly at Amsterdam Schiphol.

The tax was billed as a “green tax,” meaning that it was intended to raise the cost of flying sufficiently to deter passenger travel — and hence greenhouse gas emissions — on the margin. It apparently did this swimmingly well, better than I would have expected:

Schiphol Airport, Europe’s fifth biggest in terms of passenger enplanements, recorded a drop of 430,000 passengers in February, a 13.7% fall against the same month a year ago. The number of locally boarding passengers fell by 17.7%. The number of transfer passengers, who were exempted from the tax, declined by 8.5%.

As the story notes, this tax was not levied on transfer passengers in an attempt to keep KLM and its Schiphol hub competitive with airlines based at Paris, London Heathrow, Frankfurt, and Copenhagen. Since transfer passengers make up a huge share of Schiphol’s business, the surcharge would never have made much of a dent in the Netherlands’ aviation carbon footprint. The fact that transfer passengers were exempted and that the tax is pulled just when it seems to be working vindicates the complaints that it is a “revenue grab.”

The suspension of this tax also illustrates a tax problem. In an age of free movement across jurisdictional boundaries, tax competition is heightened, especially in areas like the low countries where a competing, lower-tax airport may be just a short drive away. “The airport operator along with Dutch carrier KLM had previously warned that potential passengers would try to avoid the tax by flying from airports across the border in Belgium or Germany,” the story report. “The Belgian Government has already abandoned a proposal to introduce a similar tax.” Unless the EU or a larger jurisdiction is going to impose a charge like this one, countries that impose it on themselves in a global downturn are making an economic death wish.

See my previous posts on the Dutch travel tax here, here, and here.

[H/T: Cranky]

Here’s the White House press release announcing the nomination of Randy Babbitt as the next administrator of the FAA.

Back from Arizona

I’m back in Washington after a good couple of days in Phoenix. Thanks to US Airways for hosting this media event — and especially for inviting bloggers and other social media folks and recognizing the increasingly important role we play in the media universe. The US Airways corporate communications office put on a great program.

It was also a pleasure to meet and see folks from the aviation media community — Richard Velotta from the Las Vegas Sun, Victoria Day from ATA, Lori Ranson from Flight, Bill Swelbar of the Swelblog, Holly Hegeman of Plane Business, and Joshua Freed of AP.

I couldn’t resist sharing this gem of a video from The Onion:

Prague’s Franz Kafka International Named World’s Most Alienating Airport