Back in July 2008, I was in Chicago attending an airports conference. Regular readers know that when I travel, I build in time at airports so I can take pictures of airplanes and other aviation-related things. Below is a shot I took of two Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s parked at a Chicago Midway Airport gate, including the jet painted in the state of Maryland livery. Enjoy!
Back in July 2008, I was on my way home from a convention in California. I was flying on Southwest Airlines, and we made a stop at Chicago Midway Airport. As I looked out the window, I saw an aircraft with the official Maryland state livery nestled between the current livery and the classic one, so I snapped it. Enjoy!
On Monday, I wrote about how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pulled the plug on privatizing Midway Airport. So I decided to pull up a photo from my Midway series. I was visiting Chicago for an airports concessions conference, and we got the grand tour. Below is a shot of a pair of Southwest Airlines jets parked at the gate. Enjoy!
Back in 1996, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Authorization Act of 1996, which included a section that created an airport privatization pilot program. That program authorized the Department of Transportation to exempt up to five airports from statutory and regulatory requirements so they could privatize. In 2012, Congress doubled the program and allowed up to 10 airports to privatize.
So far, only San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport has been privatized. New York’s Stewart International Airport was the first to privatize, in 2007, but it has since been acquired by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Of the remaining eight in the program, all but Florida’s Hendry County Airglades Airport have either withdrawn their applications or in the case of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, had their application terminated.
Among the withdrawn applications was Chicago Midway Airport. Then-Mayor Richard Daley filed the city’s application to privatize Midway in 2006. “Privatization of Midway will improve operating efficiency and provide for the highest levels of safety and security, through the ability to leverage the ‘best practices’ knowledge and expertise of the private operator,” said the city in its original application. “In addition, the amended use agreement will include incentive provisions designed to increase the efficiency of airport operations and improve comfort and responsiveness for airport users.”
But the privatization was delayed for nearly a year after Southwest and Midway’s other carriers were vocal in their concerns about how the facility would be run under a private operator. But the terms were very accommodating to the airlines — maybe too accommodating, with 65 percent of the airlines having to approve the deal, getting a longer-term facilities agreement and the transfer of operations and maintenance to the chosen airport operator. Plus the city decided to maintain fire and police services after those powerful city unions expressed concern on how their constituencies would fare under privatization. The new owner would have been able to operate the airport and collected parking, concession, and passenger facility charges.
The original deal fell through in late 2008 after the collapse of the financial markets. At the time, potential investors mulling the deal read like a who’s who among airport operators, including Vancouver Airport Services, Babcock and Brown, Macquarie Capital and Aeroports de Paris.
By 2012, the city had a new mayor – Rahm Emanuel — and the deal to privatize Midway came back to life again. In this round, those approved to bid included Global Infrastructure Partners (made up of the controlling investor and manager of London City Airport, London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport), Great Lakes Airport Alliance (made up of Macquarie and Ferrovial) and Incheon International Airport and Hastings Funds Management.
But there were always questions on whether Midway would allow its investors to get a proper return on their investment. Plus Emanuel started adding items including a Travelers Bill of Rights that would have put a cap on food and beverage prices, among other things.
And it didn’t help that Chicago residents were still stinging from the results of the privatization of the city’s parking meters, which brought in $1.15 billion. But things went downhill quickly with the private vendor, and it was assumed that Mayor Emanuel didn’t want to risk having another privatization fiasco on his watch. So in a Sept. 9 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, he threw in the privatization towel, saying “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider such investments in the future. “
Editor’s note: kids, I’m attending a journalism convention in Orlando this week, so you get Best Ofs. I’ll be back on Monday, Aug. 5, I promise!
As an aviation journalist, I have seen the best and worst of airport food. I also am a big fan of the $100 hamburger, which is just an excuse for general aviation pilots to fly from one destination to another.
Which is why I cheered when I saw this great article — Test crew flies Boeing 747-8 to Pittsburgh for sandwich — from our good friend Ben Mutzabaugh ofUSA Today’s Today In The Sky blog. This story has two elements I just love — the Boeing 747-8 and great food.
The crew for the 747-8 flew from Seattle to Pittsburgh for some flight testing and took the opportunity to take delivery of sandwiches from Primanti Brothers. Having feasted on its signature sandwich – grilled meat (give me ham), a vinegar-based cole slaw, tomato slices, and a mound of french fries between two hunks of Italian bread — I know why they made this particular stop, and I’m not hating on them.
Last September, I took a digital storytelling course at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. We had to do a 2-minute story on the topic of our choice. We were 5 minutes away from the Albert Whitted Airport, so I decided that’s where my story was. After I shot my video, I went upstairs for lunch. It was one of the best — and most reasonably priced — meals of my life. I had a chicken/sun-dried tomato pasta with fresh bread that I still dream about to this day.
Another great airport restaurant is Enrique’s at the Ponca City, OK, airport. Their chips and salsa are to die for, and you must try the Chicken Huarache. When I went to Learn To Fly Day last year at Frederick (MD) Municipal Airport, I had a great — and cheap — lunch at the Airport Diner. The view of the runway was a bonus!
On the commercial side, I give high marks to Chicago Midway’s food concourse. You get a real feel of Chicago with its great mix of local food institutions, like Gold Coast Dogs, Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant, Pegasus on the Fly and Nuts on Clark.
So what am I missing? What commercial and GA airports offer the best meal options?