Pledge drive success! Modesto likely will get new flights to LAX

Will Modesto get new flights to Los Angeles? Photo: Sixel Consulting Group.

Will Modesto get new flights to Los Angeles? Photo: Sixel Consulting Group.

We have good news for the people of Modesto.

A seemingly bizarre plan suggested by a consultant for the city may have actually worked. You may remember in January, when Sixel Consulting Group said a “mystery” airline would start new flights to Los Angeles under one condition — the community would have to amass $1 million in non-binding pledges to buy plane tickets on the new flights.

This week the consultant announced good news.

“The City of Modesto is pleased to announce that the DestinationLAX pledge campaign has now raised $1,074,646 in nonbinding pledges!” (Yes, the exclamation point actually was in the press release.)

According to the Modesto Bee, this means the new service is a done deal.  But the consultant still isn’t saying what the new airline will be. Apparently that’s top secret.

“We are not at liberty to disclose a carrier or a timeline for service, as those items are still in negotiation,” Jack Penning, Sixel’s director of market analysis, said in an email to the Bee.

This is all confusing to me.

First, I don’t understand the secrecy. It’s a flight from Modesto to L.A., not a matter of national security. Second, the pledges are non-binding. No one knows whether anyone will buy these tickets. So, at best, maybe this whole campaign was about getting free advertising for whatever airline will soon begin flights from Modesto to L.A. This campaign got all of Modesto talking about new flights.

I shouldn’t make predictions here because I might get it wrong. But this airline has to be Skywest Airlines, right? Can you think of another carrier it might possibly be?

Also, I’m interested to see how much Sixel gets paid by Modesto for this operation.

Read on for the full press release. Continue reading

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Passenger traffic at LAX jumped 7.3 percent between January 2013 and January 2014

LAX had an impressive January in passenger traffic. Photo: Brad Graverson.

LAX had an impressive January in passenger traffic. Photo: Brad Graverson.

Los Angeles International Airport could be on pace for a record year in passenger traffic, according to statistics released this week.

LAX accommodated 5.4 million passengers in January, an increase of 7.3 percent compared to January 2013. The airport did this despite the fact that January, especially the first two weeks, is a notoriously slow time for air travel.

In 2013, LAX set an all-time record for international traffic, with 17.9 million international travelers. It had set the previous record of 17.5 million in 2005. But LAX has still yet to match its overall pre-9/11 peak of 67.3 million. Last year, it accommodated 66.7 million total passengers.

Where’s the growth coming from? Everywhere except Terminal 4 (American Airlines and American Eagle), Terminal 6 (Alaska and United) and Terminal 8 (United and United Express), according to the data.

The biggest jump in the airport’s nine terminals? That happened in Terminal 5, where Delta has been expanding its number of flights. The number of passengers in Terminal 5 rose 28.37 percent from January 2013 to January 2014. In real numbers, the passenger count increased from 525,208 to 674,234.

This is good news for the Los Angeles economy. But I’ve heard from people who used LAX in the late 1990s that the traffic in the Central Terminal Area could get horrendous. There’s only so much space for cars to go. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to traffic as the number of passengers continues to grow. (And barring changes in the economy or market forces it will — airlines are bullish on LAX these days.)

For my data inclined readers, here’s the full report:

Los Angeles International Airport Air Traffic report

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LAX is citing UberBlack and UberSUV drivers for not gathering enough info on passengers

Uber is running into problems at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Uber

Uber is running into problems at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Uber

Police at Los Angeles International Airport have begun to enforce little known rules that make it slightly more difficult for two of the most popular ride-sharing services — UberBlack and UberSUV — to pick up passengers at terminals.

Drivers for two companies have received about 15 administrative citations in the past two weeks, according to a Los Angeles World Airports police source. The transgression? The drivers have failed to produce to police officers a valid “waybill.” That essentially means the drivers aren’t gathering enough information on passengers.

The good news is that UberBlack and UberSUV are still making LAX pickups. Also, as a passenger, you have nothing to worry about — only the driver will be cited by police.

Here’s the deal. The airport gets to make its own rules about who can make terminal pickups. According to Los Angeles World Airports Police Sgt. Karla Ortiz, drivers making pickups at LAX in exchange for money must first learn some key details about their fare, and the driver must have that information in writing. Ortiz said this is some of the information required:

  1. Name of the customer
  2. The terminal pickup location
  3. The arrival time of the customer
  4. Airline flight number
  5. Date the ride was arranged.
  6. Passenger’s destination.

If you’re a regular UberBlack or UberSUV customer, you probably know the problem. The mobile phone app doesn’t ask most of this information, and thus the driver won’t have it to produce to police unless the driver calls you first.

“If they are missing the flight number, if they are missing the airline, if they are missing the terminal, or they hare missing the destination, that would qualify as an incomplete waybill,” Ortiz said. “It would have to meet all those requirements for it to be a valid waybill.”

Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Uber, said in an email that there’s a quick fix.

“We communicated previously to UberBLACK and UberSUV partners that drivers should call the rider as soon as they accept a request from LAX to record all fields that are incomplete on their electronic waybill,” Noyes said. “We’ll be sending out another reminder this week as well.”

On Reddit, a driver posted a photograph of a citation he or she claims to have received from airport police. The driver in that case was cited for “Soliciting” and “Failure to Possess Valid Waybill.”

You may remember last month, when I wrote about a LAX crackdown against UberX, Sidecar and Lyft. At the time, a police source told me that airport police had assessed 200 citations to drivers in a two-month period. Afterward, UberX halted all pickups at LAX.

This situation does not sound as dire. I wouldn’t characterize it as a crackdown. But it will be interesting to see what happens next.

As for why the waybill exists?

“It is just part of the enforcement to always look at the waybill,” Ortiz said. “They are the only way we can make sure that people who are conducting business at the airport are doing it properly.”

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LAX: Two former employees sentenced in airfield dry ice incident

Remember the two men who planted dry ice bombs at LAX in October? One of them went off in a Terminal 2 employee restroom, and it caused a pretty impressive police response. Travelers were on edge.

Two days later, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the consequences would be severe.

“Whether you think this is a harmless prank or a way to disrupt operations at the airport, it won’t matter,” Beck said, according to the L.A. Times.  ”You will go to jail.”

But there will be no jail.

Former Servisair employees Miguel Angel Iniguez, 41, of Inglewood, and Dicarlo Bennett, 29, of Paramount were sentenced Friday by a state court judge to three years probation and 480 hours of community service.

What do you think? Did they get off to easily?

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