by Max Brantley
Over Airport Director Ron Mathieu's kicking and screaming, the Little Rock Airport Commission decided yesterday to move ahead with creating a so-called cell phone lot where people can wait for free to pick up people arriving at the airport. The preferred option is spending about $14,000 to use a lot at the defunct Aerospace Center on E. Roosevelt Road.
But wait: Here's a simple, no-out-of-pocket-cost option: Return to the old policy of allowing 30 minutes free in the airport's various paid lots. Now Mathieu nicks you the minute you lift the gate. The airport would lose little money because most people affected aren't using the lots now. A few big spenders like me would occasionally get off free where we now make a small payment to park rather than circle the airport. But the airport would also reap money from people who parked longer than they anticipated because of plane or baggage delays (and perhaps bought a cup of coffee while waiting in the terminal.).
And did you catch the bottom line on Mathieu's happy report that airport revenue was higher in February despite a 13 percent drop in passenger traffic? Only at LIT does decreasing demand mean consumers pay more for the same old stuff. The airport has been perverting free market economics for the last decade. As traffic has declined, airport users have been stuck with ever increasing fees for parking, rental cars and airline boarding. Ask one of the Little Rock business sultans who run the place to explain this to you. Or the $100,000-a-year airport public relations staffer. Or the new public relations and marketing consultant the airport just hired.
UPDATE: A reader has a great airport revenue idea. Sell some advertising in that prime space where they post the gigundo photos of the nabobs on the Airport Commission.