New airport use agreement puts American Airlines first
Written by Jesse Scheckner on August 7, 2018
American Airlines went to the front of the line at up to 61 gates as Miami-Dade commissioners approved a 15-year agreement granting high-volume airlines priority use of concourse gates and changing how domestic and international carriers pay for facilities and services at Miami International Airport – but not before Commissioner Barbara Jordan ensured tougher language was included to eliminate living wage loopholes.
Commissioners had already OK’d an ordinance change to require concessionaires and other “covered service” businesses at the airport to pay employees up to $15.52 an hour or payment with equivalent healthcare plans.
But a line in the new 2018 Airline Use Agreement allowing consortiums of airlines to internally provide services otherwise afforded by airline or airport personnel prompted Ms. Jordan to request an amendment to eliminate wage-related ambiguity.
After a lengthy back-and-forth with the county attorney, the item’s primary sponsor, Rebeca Sosa, Aviation Director Lester Sola and American Airlines attorney Richard Weiss, himself a former assistant county attorney, Ms. Jordan got her way.
New language was included to specify that consortiums were not exempt from paying living wages.
The 2018 use agreement, which supplants the interim agreement held over since 2017, will otherwise mostly continue the airport’s rates and charges policies, Deputy Mayor Jack Osterholt wrote.
Large air carriers may now be specially allocated gates by the Aviation Department. The accommodation is neither a lease nor a grant of exclusivity and bestows one preferential gate to an airline for each five departures it operates, onto which it may consolidate operations and pay an affixed cost.
Airlines granted preferential use may outfit gates with branding, signage and other decorative fixtures like carpeting and logos; however, all gates must still be available for non-branded carrier use when needed.
Airlines must also maintain necessary usage levels or be subject to gate recapture and reassignment by the Aviation Department, following notice and monitoring of the carrier’s assignment logs over a minimum of 150 days.
The Aviation Department also has the right to change the location and number of preferential gates for efficiency and emergency purposes at any time.
Many commercial airports throughout the country have similar practices, Mr. Osterholt wrote.
The use agreement last month was amended by Commissioner Sally Heyman to make assessments of preferred use gates mandatory, rather than elective, every five years.
Of the airport’s 140 gates, the county has identified 77 as eligible for preferential use.
Sixty-one will potentially go to American Airlines, which took advantage of the new agreement as a fifth amendment to its lease with the county was accepted by commissioners.
The airline will be granted preferential gates in the airport’s North Terminal.
American’s lease was changed in 2002 to prevent it from gaining exclusive use of the terminal. Today, the restriction would make the airline the only carrier prohibited from using preferential gates.
Under the new Airline Use Agreement, domestic airlines will no longer support international facilities and services, making cost-sharing “more equitable between international and domestic flights,” Mr. Osterholt wrote, adding that domestic and international flights from the airport are about equal.