US Airways balks at Philly airport expansion

The biggest airline in town says it doesn’t want to pay for a new runway at the Philadelphia International Airport. The runway is part of a $6 billion expansion plan backed by the city, which says it will reduce delays.

Since it’s not getting much traction in talks with the city, US Airways representatives have started talking with Philadelphia businesses about why a new runway doesn’t make sense.

The problem, said Rhett Workman, the airline’s managing director of corporate real estate, is upstairs. Philadelphia’s in the world’s busiest airspace and there’s just no getting around it by building a new runway on the ground, he said.

“The worst-case scenario would be to spend billions of dollars that the airlines are paying for and then, on top of that, still have these massive delay costs that we take on,” Workman said. “That’s the doomsday scenario for everyone.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

City officials anticipate not a doomsday scenario but much-needed improvement with the new runway.

“The city’s position is we’re not going to postpone,” said Andrew Stober, chief of staff in the mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities. The runway, he said, will take eight to 10 years to develop.

The idea of waiting for four years, then re-evaluating the need, Stober said, “is not acceptable to us. We need to move forward.”

Airlines now run fewer, but larger, flights to combat high-fuel costs, Workman said, adding that means fewer traffic jams on the runways.

Proponents of a new runway say it will help prevent lengthy delays due to bad weather. Now, despite having multiple runways, the airport can use only one runway at a time when the weather gets bad enough because they are so close together.

City officials estimate the entire airport expansion–the runway is just a part of it–could create 100,000 jobs.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal