PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 23, 2013

Brooks Airport wants more business

— With more than 11,000 people benefiting from the service of Jack Brooks Regional Airport since Feb. 14, airport director Alex Rupp is working diligently to improve the overall experience for the passengers.

The airport recently signed a letter of intent with Accelerated Development in an effort to add restaurants and other retail establishments in front of the terminal.

“You know the vacant grass between the terminal and the highway? We’re looking to get retail businesses out there — restaurants and others specifically for the airport,” Rupp said. “What that does is increase airport revenue, which will then be used to help offset the cost to operate the airside.”

Jack Brooks is also rehabbing its taxiway, which will run the length of one end of the airfield to the other.

“When you get off the runway, you want to get off as soon as you can,” Rupp said.

The airport is involved in several other projects to spruce up the airport. Precinct 2 assisted in replacing the deteriorating asphalt around Jerry Ware Terminal, and other repairs are in the works.

“We’re making quite a few repairs to our general aviation terminal — giving it a more updated and modern look while maintaining the architectural appearance it had back when it was built in the ‘60s,” Rupp said. “We’re just giving it a little TLC.”

All the hard work seems to be paying off. In February, Rupp said, the airport received its first clean inspection in “a long time” from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We received a letter saying that we have maintained our airport to exemplary status,” Rupp said. “FAA requirements change constantly — almost like your tax laws. Sometimes we fall behind the curve as far as what’s new and updated, but this year, we’re on point.”

In June 2012, Colgan Air, Inc. and United Airlines announced that they were going to discontinue air service at Jack Brooks. In July, all planes were replaced with buses that transport passengers to Houston, where they can then board a flight to their destination. In October, Jack Brooks signed a deal with American Airlines, and on Feb. 14, the inaugural American Airlines flight departed for Dallas.

Rupp said the airport has received precisely what it requested of American Airlines.

“We asked for reliability, affordability, customer service and connectivity,” he said. “American has been operating at about a 98 percent completion factor, which means 98 percent of the time, they leave and come back when they’re supposed to.”

As far as affordability, the average traveler can pay up to $220 more for a flight from Houston, Rupp said.

 “Factor in mileage at 55 cents a mile,” Rupp said. “It’s a 180-mile round trip to Houston, so at 55 cents, you’re looking at about $100 right there. Then you pack on parking, which ranges from $7 to $20 a day, and the average trip is three days. Add it all up and you’re looking at about $220. Very conservative figures indicate you have 50,000 people a year going through this airport. That’s $1.8 million a year that’s not spent in Houston.”

In today’s economy, Rupp said, Jack Brooks is a sensible alternative to Hobby International or George Bush Intercontinental.

“The convenience factor is very important, and so is money saved,” he said. “Any dollar that somebody can save, they cherish it.”

George Tolliver would tend to agree. Tolliver has traveled from his home in Orange to Denver for his job as an electrician frequently in the past 14 years. He said that even with the discontinuation of United, Jack Brooks relieves him of the burden of driving his own car to Houston.

“It takes a little more time, but Houston traffic is so bad, I really don’t want to drive there,” Tolliver said. “Plus, if you rent a car, you have to leave even earlier.”

Marilynn Phifer departed Jack Brooks on Monday for her home in Lakeland, Ohio, after she and several siblings visited their brother in Beaumont. Phifer said her experience at the airport was a pleasant one.

“It’s easy to get in and easy to get out — my brother just pulled right up to the door and picked us up,” she said. “I love this little airport. It’s the best.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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