May 30, 2011 in City
Face Time: New airport chief sees room for improved service
Larry Krauter became director of Spokane International Airport and Felts Field on March 28. The 45-year-old Ohio native had been interim executive of the Lehigh-Northhampton Airport Authority in eastern Pennsylvania.
Q. How long have you been interested in aviation?
A. Since I was a boy. And I got my degree in aviation management from Ohio State University, one of a handful of colleges to offer the degree.
Q. Why did you take the Spokane Airport job?
A. It’s a great job opportunity. It’s a great airport. There’s a lot of upside. The people I interacted with made it an easy decision, and my family fell in love with the way we were treated, and not just at the airport.
It really made an impression on us.
Q. What is your vision for the airport?
A. The opportunities are significant, and not just in air service. With our land – 4,500 acres – we have the potential to create an “airport city,” attractive to high-tech businesses and those that need global access to parts and markets. We want to be better integrated into the broader economy, including North Idaho. A lot of my job will be communicating the economic opportunity.
We also want to be an organization considered pre-eminent in service quality, safety and integrity.
Q. Some of that space has been reserved for a possible third runway. How long does the airport need to keep that option open?
A. You have to remember that the airports with the most underutilized capacity will be the airports of the future. I’m from the Northeast. You see airports that have lost their futures because they allowed encroachment.
Q. What about financial resources?
A. That’s going to be the challenge. With the squeeze on the federal budget, some of the programs we relied on will be smaller or eliminated. Local government and local business may have to pick up some of the slack.
And airports are not seeing any of the additional revenue baggage fees and other charges are generating for the airlines. Airport business models are changing. I think we are going to have to look more like a business than a government utility. And as we graduate from a small-hub to a medium-hub airport, there will be a greater demand for capital.
Q. What changes might passengers see in the near future?
A. I want to humanize the airport. We’re working on free Wi-Fi and baggage carts. And we want to make the airport experience more fun. It’s a little too quiet. Maybe we will bring in school choirs to sing carols during the Christmas season.
Q. What can be done to ease passenger frustration with the screening process?
A. The government is finding better ways to assess risk. And the technology is improving. This will sort itself out to be a friendlier experience for the travelers.
Q. What about Felts Field?
A. We have to better integrate that airport into our strategic plan. There is room out there for more hangars or other buildings, but to make use of that space we may have to move the control tower to the north side of the runway.