Airport efficiency: the world’s winners

Do you get frustrated when you walk into an airport? Even before you get there? On good days, it’s a painful experience, with long lines, the security gauntlet and procedures (which may or may not be appropriate) that are guaranteed to annoy. It should come as no surprise that some are better than others. While the hope for a headache-free flight may not change your vacation plans, knowing that you’ll pass though one may take the edge off a bit.

The Air Transport Research Society has put out a list of the world’s most efficient airports, large and small, in the top three regions for travel: North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The rankings were based on a wide range of statistic, including “traffic data, on-time statistics, financial reports and passenger throughput.”

According to the ATRS, the five airports least likely to drive you nuts (by region) are:

  • Europe, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Oslo, Norway
  • Europe, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Geneva, Switzerland
  • North America, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Atlanta, Georgia
  • North America, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Asia-Pacific, Large Airport (more than 15 million passengers): Hong Kong
  • Asia-Pacific, Small Airport (less than 15 million passengers): Seoul-Gimpo, South Korea

So, which one is the best in the world? The ATRS gives that distinction to Atlanta, which is tops for traffic and has solid financial management. Seoul-Gimpo, according to the study, has made a “remarkable turnaround, and Oslo knocked Copenhagen out of the winner’s circle that it had owned for several years.

[photo by Franco Folini via Flickr]

Odds are, you’ll be on a smaller plane

Airlines are using the little planes for longer runs, these days. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the average regional airline flight hit 461 miles in 2008, up profoundly from 274 miles in 2009. That’s an increase of 41 percent! This is an industry-wide trend, so shopping around isn’t likely to help you get a larger jet. The major carriers are relying on regional affiliates, so you’ll probably be out of luck. The regionals fly more than half the flights from some pretty hefty airports, including LaGuardia, O’Hare, Milwaukee, Raleigh and Memphis. And, these airlines account for 45% of the traffic at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International, the busiest airport in the United States.

American Airlines and United announced that they were adopting this approach back in September, particularly at airports such as Chicago and Denver. Delta has moved its Washington-to-New York shuttle to one of its regional carriers, as well.

[Via USA Today]

American finds $2.9 billion: more routes added

It’s hard to see how the machinations of Wall Street affect the end consumer, sometimes. In the case of American Airlines and its recent pickup of $2.9 billion, you can draw a straight line from the money to the exit row.

The hefty infusion, a risky move because revenues are down and this is not a trivial amount of debt, has already prompted announcements of schedule changes … for the better. American is planning to increase flying in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami, though there will be fewer flights in Raleigh/Durham and St. Louis. Look for 57 new daily flights at O’Hare, six more from JFK, two in Los Angeles and anther 19 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The news comes at a time when most airlines are cutting back service as a way to control costs due to reductions in passenger traffic.

Since we’ve seen what fewer flights can mean – more crowded flights, less legroom and higher odds of getting stuck in a middle seat – the financial breathing room that American has gained could actually give you more actual breathing room the next time you fly. If American fill these extra seats (at the expense of your throwing up the armrest and claiming two), it will generate more revenue, which could turn into real growth. Maybe some of that cash will be used to bring back some amenities.

Blankets, anyone?