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JWA director says flights to D.C. in the works

During a chamber event, he also explains three alternative plans for the settlement agreement, currently under environmental review.

June 06, 2013|By Jill Cowan

John Wayne Airport passengers could soon say "Aloha" to reinstated service to Hawaii, Airport Director Alan Murphy told members of the Newport Beach business community at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday morning.

He said he gets asked a lot about service to Hawaii, and airport operators hope to work with an appropriate carrier to provide flights to the islands.

But first, airport officials are aiming for Washington, D.C.

"It's our No. 1 current unserved market," Murphy said.

That finding came from a newly formed Air Service Task Force — an outgrowth of efforts to more effectively market the airport. The task force includes Murphy, four representatives from the Orange County Business Council, Jay Burress, president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, and Gary Sherwin, head of Visit Newport Beach.

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Murphy said the group recently held its first meeting, adding that in recent years the airport has increasingly focused on competing with other regional airports, like those in Long Beach and Ontario.

Though JWA is owned and operated by the county, he said, "We operate as a business like a lot of you folks."

In the Newport Beach Central Library's Friends Room, Murphy toed a fine line between appealing to the audience's business savvy and addressing the Newport Beach community's at-times fraught relationship with the airport and the noise it generates.

Asked whether the airport planned to expand its footprint in terms of acreage, he stressed that cities surrounding the airfield would have to sign on.

"I see the mayor [Keith Curry] is shaking his head no," he quipped.

One parking area, however, will be adding about 1,500 additional spaces within the next year.

He discussed the path forward for a new settlement agreement setting caps on traffic through the airport.

That renegotiated settlement is in the environmental review process through the county, which will look at several different options for new passenger and flight limits.

The city and the county have voted to move forward for consideration the city's preferred option, which would see annual passenger caps increased to 11.8 million in 2025, and 12.2 or 12.5 million in 2030, depending on how many travelers actually pass through JWA during that time.

Currently, the number of annual passengers can't exceed 10.8 million. In the proposed settlement, that cap would remain in place through 2020.

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