Indianapolis airport traffic jumped in April

May 21, 2010

For the last year, Marsha Stone has been the bearer of bad news to the Indianapolis Airport Authority board of directors.

Month after month, board members braced themselves as the airport finance director broke down the bottom-line results of plunging passenger traffic—down 8.5 percent in 2009—stemming from the Great Recession.

But at Friday morning’s meeting Stone wasn’t clad in figurative black, hooded robe or carrying a sickle.

“I am very excited to stand before you today with a presentation I’ve been waiting to talk about for some time—and that’s positive numbers in terms of passenger growth,” she said. "We’re really pleased to see April’s passenger results come out with a 6-percent increase over the same period for the prior year."

More than 319,000 people boarded a plane at the airport in April, a 6.4-percent rise from April 2009. It was the first year-to-year monthly increase since July 2007.

“We’ve been waiting for the turnaround," Stone added. "We hope it’s the start of a new trend.”

Other numbers weren't quite as positive.

Year-to-date traffic at the airport is down 1.4 percent. Scheduled seating capacity is off 3.7 percent this year because airlines are cutting flights, but that’s in the ballpark for other midsize airports, Stone said.

Cargo traffic was flat last month, said Stone, who’d been tracking an uptick in previous weeks.

Most of the cargo at the airport, the eighth-largest for cargo in North America, is moved by FedEx.

In other airport developments,  it was disclosed at Friday's board meeting that the authority is closer to adopting an incentive-based compensation package for officers. The intention is to further motivate officers to find ways to reduce costs and drive up airport revenue.

CEO John Clark already has an incentive component on top of his $270,000 annual salary. Clark has potential to earn a bonus of up to 30 percent of his base pay—or up to $81,000.

Alex Azar II, chairman of the authority’s human resources committee, said Clark recommended that his pay should remain flat in 2010, citing ongoing financial challenges at the airport.

Azar said it was “much to our CEO’s credit” to make the recommendation “in light of the financial issues we’ve been dealing with” and employee sacrifices.

Last year, his first in Indianapolis, Clark received an incentive payment of about $33,000 on top of his base salary, according to airport records.

Clark was criticized in his previous post as head of Jacksonville’s aviation authority for his salary, perks and worldwide travel expenses.

Clark has defended his travel as a part of his previous position as head of the North American arm of Airports Council International.

His time sheets are the subject of scrutiny by a Florida state’s attorney. Clark has denied any impropriety.


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