Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect correct information about the passenger service fee. The fee began in 1992 and passenger ticket prices will not increase. What is new is how the fee will be spent. An application is required each year for new projects.
Passengers flying from the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport will not see an increase in ticket prices designed to raise some $1.5 million over more than two years for projects deemed critical by airport officials.
The airport intends to raise $1.54 million from Oct. 2, 2017, to June 30, 2020, through the use of passenger service fees to pay for: terminal building improvements and boarding bridge replacements ($660,000); flight information and common use system upgrades ($750,000); airport ramp rehabilitation ($50,000); airport electrical vault rehabilitation ($40,000); and administrative expenses incurred in the projects ($40,000), according to a legal notice and city spokeswoman Hilary Shine.
A $4.50 passenger service fee for people flying from the airport to their destinations will be assessed to pay for the projects, if approved by the City Council. The fee would apply to departures only. The Federal Aviation Administration then will evaluate the application and has the final word.
The first project would design and build replacements for four passenger bridges, which are “experiencing major mechanical and maintenance issues” despite preventative maintenance, according to a memorandum on the airport’s website.
The boarding bridges have been used since the airport opened in August 2004.
“(The company) no longer manufactures these bridges, nor provides support for the bridges; in fact, the company has gone out of business,” the memo says. “Given the paucity of parts and maintenance support, the high maintenance costs incurred to sustain the bridges, and the increasing down times of the bridges when parts or systems fail, a change in (passenger boarding bridges) for the airport is prudent.”
Replacing the four bridges is anticipated to increase efficiency, decrease bridge down time and decrease annual maintenance costs, the memo adds.
The second big project proposes a complete revamp to passenger processing and flight information by upgrading outdated and incompatible technology. It would scale to growth and help to eliminate “barriers to airline competition and reduce airline costs,” the memo says.
Go to http://bit.ly/2oPpiEV to read the public notice on the airport website.
Projects and phases were outlined in notices posted to airport and city of Killeen websites on April 10, and in a legal notice published in the Daily Herald on April 11.
Total passenger activity at the Killeen airport was up year-over-year in January by 7.95 percent (18,035 to 19,470 total passengers); up in February by 10.8 percent (17,653 to 19,559); but down in March by 3.29 percent (23,694 to 22,914), according to city data.
Competition with Austin was cited by airport officials as one of many underlying reasons behind the decline in local passenger activity. Another was perceived higher-than-average airplane fares in Killeen when compared to Austin.
Market and carrier fare information available from the Transportation Department show in the second quarter of 2016, the average one-way fare was $270 at Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, and $230 at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. In the previous quarter, the fare was $264 and $232, respectively. Data is submitted up to six months after a quarter.
Passenger boarding in 2016 was down 9 percent year-over-year, and data show it was the lowest air ridership and passenger activity in more than a decade.
Boardings and deplanements in 2016 dropped from 289,020 to 277,054, a 4.1 percent decrease from 2015, continuing a year-over-year slide since 2013 when the airport reported 339,416.
The airport’s best year was 2010, with 424,147 inbound and outbound passengers.
Since 2010, the airport has seen a 34.7 percent decrease in passenger activity — nearly 150,000 fewer enplanements and deplanements a year.
Residents have until 5 p.m. May 12 to submit comments about the proposed airport improvements and the passenger service fee, and can do so by mailing or delivering them to Matt Van Valkenburgh, A.A.E., executive director of aviation, 8101 Clear Creek Road, Box C, Killeen, Texas, 76549.