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Yeager board takes up speed limits, baggage delays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some drivers may soon find the trip to Charleston's Yeager Airport a tiny bit longer, after the airport's governing board voted to post new speed limits for the section of Airport Road that loops past the passenger terminal and parking garage.

On Wednesday, board members voted to post a 20 mph speed limit for vehicles traveling on the loop section of Airport Road, which passes by the passenger parking building, short-term parking lot and rental car garage. For the section of Airport Road directly fronting the passenger terminal, a speed limit of 10 mph will be posted.

Currently, the only posted speed limit sign on Airport Road is located near its junction with W.Va. 114, and lists 45 mph as the maximum legal speed.

Among other developments Wednesday, the board took action aimed at speeding up the time it takes for arriving commercial aircraft to travel from taxiway to passenger gates, and to offload and dispense luggage.

Airport Director Rick Atkinson said it should take no longer than 20 minutes from the time an arriving commercial aircraft clears the taxiway for passengers to be offloaded and baggage to be placed on the baggage claim carousel. 

But Atkinson said he has received a number of complaints about the process taking much longer, particularly on United and Delta flights, which use Regional Elite Airline Services as their ground-crew and baggage-handling provider.

While Regional Elite is going out of business and will be replaced by a new subcontractor in November, Atkinson was authorized to have his staff monitor gate docking and baggage disbursal times, and to make airline officials aware of any shortcomings in those areas.

"We need to let the carriers know how their subcontractors are doing," said Atkinson.

If that approach doesn't work, the airport director said, the board may want to consider instituting a policy in which the airport would fine airlines $100 a minute for each minute past 20 that it takes to park an aircraft at a gate and offload passengers and baggage.

"I think we need to tell the airlines that we're prepared to fine them" if their subcontractors don't put an end to excessive delays, said board president R. Edison Hill.

In May, Charleston businessman and frequent flier Mike Davis appeared at an airport board meeting to complain about it taking 80 minutes from the time his plane touched down at Yeager for his luggage to arrive in the terminal's carousel. Davis had been traveling on a United flight for which ground services were provided by Regional Elite.

"We sent a letter to the head of the airline after that," Atkinson said. "If there have been any improvements since then, they've been minimal."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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