City spending $150K for answers in airport power struggle

City spending $150K for answers in airport power struggle

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by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 21 at 6:01 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- An aviation consultant is getting $150,000 from the city of Charlotte to find answers to one big question: why is there such a big push to change how Charlotte Douglas International Airport is run?

The city has operated it forever. Now, lawmakers are pushing for an independent authority, appointed by the state.

Bob Hazel, a partner with Oliver Wyman in Reston, Virginia, will start asking questions to key stakeholders Friday.

“What’s the reason you favor a change, if you favor a change?  The second is if you favor a change in governance, how do you believe that change in governance will address specific issues?” Hazel said.

"We're going to interview as many as we can in the limited time we have."

That list of people Hazel plans to talk to includes council members, lawmakers, airport advisory board members and US Airways, among others.

US Airways is by far the dominant carrier in Charlotte, but says it is not picking sides in the power struggle.

"We would like to get to a period of calm because what we want to focus on is running the airline and not these broader issues,” said Michael Minerva, US Airways Vice President for Airport and Government Affairs.

Issues at stake when it comes to airport leadership include operating revenue, maintaining the low cost airlines pay to fly here compared to other airports, debt, land use and operations.

The Senate has already approved a change control. It's up for debate in the House.

The thing about the study and the answers is it might not even matter, because lawmakers could move forward before the findings ever reach their hands.

Either way, the city says asking and answering these questions is necessary to understand the power struggle.

"I don't think the airport is broken.  That said, this study will let us know if there's a better way to govern a 10-billion dollar asset, then I support it,” council member Andy Dulin said.

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