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John Wayne Airport Sees April Upswing

John Wayne Airport Sees April Upswing

By CHRIS CZIBORR





John Wayne Airport is getting back to normal.

Passengers at the airport last month were up 5.6% to 657,598 from a year ago. The number of flights in and out of the airport also showed gains in April, rising 1.3% to 7,100 from April 2001.

The trend is a step up from after Sept. 11. In November, typically the busiest month, passenger counts dropped 8% to 585,293 travelers from a year earlier.

One weak spot: commuter flights. John Wayne Airport’s sole commuter operator is SkyWest Inc., a joint venture of United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. SkyWest saw a 45% decline in flights to 508 in April.

Most security measures put in place since Sept. 11 remain, though the National Guard no longer patrols John Wayne after pulling out last week and from airports statewide.

Passengers still can be dropped off curbside, but vehicles entering the parking structure, including valet parking, are subject to searches by Orange County Sheriff’s deputies.

The searches are taking about 10 minutes,search times haven’t varied much since the airport first started checking vehicles, according to spokeswoman Ann McCarley.

“We’re still telling folks to arrive at least two hours before their flights leave to allow time for parking, standing in line and going through security screening,” McCarley said. “The worst case scenario for security screening is about an hour,Monday mornings have been the busiest.”

Security clearance times vary during the rest of the week but generally take 45 minutes or less, she said.

All 10 airlines operating at John Wayne except Delta have self-check-in for people with electronic tickets. All but Aloha Airlines have curbside check-in.

Bomb-sniffing dogs are expected to begin full-time duty in July with a dog facility yet to be built. OC Sheriff’s deputies are set to look after the dogs and take them home at night.

Irving, Texas-based Globe Aviation Services Corp., a unit of Sweden’s Securitas AB, is handling baggage screening under a contract with the Federal Transportation Security Administration, a new sister group of the Federal Aviation Administration.

In other airport news, work has started on a $3 million seismic retrofitting of John Wayne’s parking structure. The project, to be done in several 12-week stages, will close 800 parking spaces at a time before the retrofit is set to be done next April.

During the construction phase, airport officials are telling travelers to use the east parking structure, as well as curbside valet parking and Main Street parking.

The county Board of Supervisors awarded the retrofitting contract to Duarte-based Fibrwrap Construction Inc. in February.

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