Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) aviation director Huntley Lawrence called on airlines to provide detailed, real-time operational data to the entity managing New York JFK, New York LaGuardia and Newark airports. 

“I need information, all the time, not just some of the time,” Lawrence said at the IATA Aviation Day conference in New York. “I need to know if baggage belts are working. I need to know if a plane is stuck on the tarmac. I need to know how airlines are using the gates … I need information to take action … I don’t ever want to hear [about a problem] first from the [passengers] or the press. By then it’s too late and we’re not doing our jobs.”

The three major New York-area airports are in the midst of a $1.1 billion revitalization initiative that aims to dramatically upgrade their facilities and improve what has long been a difficult experience for passengers. Lawrence, who has run the New York-area airports for just over a year, noted that 15% of daily departures in the US are to or from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark. 

“We haven’t always been up to the task” of managing the New York-area airports to the satisfaction of passengers, Lawrence conceded. “I’m not satisfied either. The airports have always scraped by with less than elegant solutions, [accepting crowding in the terminals and substandard customer service] for far too many years. This will no longer fly with the new terminals we’re building today … The days of endless lines and substandard conditions are over.”

Lawrence said he needs the cooperation of airlines, asking them to share operational data so PANYNJ management can make decisions to keep the airports working efficiently and address issues before major problems arise. “I’m not gathering information [from airlines] for information’s sake,” he said. “Issues that don’t get solved become problems. It’s a lot easier to fix a leaky faucet than mop up a flood.”

The New York-area airports currently handle over 130 million passengers annually, but this figure is expected to rise to 180 million yearly passengers over the next two decades, Lawrence said.

There is now “construction everywhere,” he said, noting that “we’re basically going to deliver an entirely new airport” at JFK. “I promise you this is just temporary,” Lawrence said. “Frankly, it’s about damn time” that the New York-area airports got a “facelift,” he added.

But Lawrence said he must “demand transparency” from airlines regarding operational data to ensure the new construction allows PANYNJ to provide “world class” customer service. “I need a transparent process that gives me solid, reliable information from airlines,” Lawrence said. “How are airlines using their slots? How are gates being utilized? Are they interested in moving aircraft to another New York airport?”

“It’s a reasonable request,” IATA DG and CEO Alexandre de Juniac told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily. “The airlines have this data. It’s reasonable and feasible, and [airlines] could provide big airports with this kind of data.”

Aaron Karp/Aviation Daily aaron.karp@informa.com