Airport flights now on TV | AspenTimes.com

Airport flights now on TV

Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writer

No need to hustle out to the airport only to find out your flight has been delayed.Now that departures and arrivals at the Aspen Airport are being broadcast on local channel 11, residents and visitors can stay on top of travel plans from their couch. The newest addition to cable systems in Aspen, Snowmass Village and some parts of unincorporated Pitkin County is arrival and departure information straight from the airport.It may not be the most exciting addition to television broadcasting, but airport director Jim Elwood expects the up-to-date data to ease life for the traveling public. Now, residents know when to head to the airport to pick up visitors, and travelers will know when they should call a cab.”If your flight is canceled, you can call the airline’s 1-800 number to re-book a flight without having to arrive at the airport and go through a ticket-line situation,” Elwood said.The service is a collaboration between the city and county information system departments, AT&T Broadband Cable, the airport and KAJX, the local radio station that has given permission to have its signal rebroadcast on the channel.According to Jim Niswender, the general manager with AT&T Broadband, a fiber-optic line has been installed out to the airport. The airport installed its Flight Information Display System a year ago, giving it the ability to transmit that information out on a cable network.The information is sent across Highway 82 to the AT&T offices at the Airport Business Center and then is rebroadcast to all broadband customers in the area, including hotels and condominiums. Niswender said it wasn’t easy to install the fiber-optic line out to the airport, but the local team effort made it worthwhile.”We put in the backbone, and it turned out to be a good thing,” he said. “We’ll be able to provide a worthwhile service to people in this area because of this collaboration.”The Pitkin County commissioners agreed that AT&T could use channel 11 for the service, which had been a bulletin-board display of public-service announcements. AT&T spent the additional money to extend their fiber-optic line to the airport.”It was an issue that had been discussed for some time,” Elwood said. “It just happened that all of the parts came together at the right place and time.”Also new at the airport is a second security checkpoint to increase customer service as security procedures continue to change with federal regulations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Restroom access was also added for travelers who have already passed through security to the gate area.Elwood plans to address security issues at the airport with county commissioners during their work session on Tuesday. The discussion will include how to reopen the airport’s short-term parking lot, which was closed shortly after Sept. 11 because the spaces are within 300 feet of the terminal.”We’re trying to work with customer service issues as best we can within a dynamically changing security environment,” Elwood said. “We recognize that airports across the nation have been impacted, and we want to make the airport experience as good as we can here in Aspen while changing with the circumstances.”Just before the holidays, airport officials were able to reopen the rental car return lot by paying for security to inspect cars returned to the lot. Elwood said the Federal Aviation Administration granted the airport a variance from the 300-foot rule that made use of the rental lot possible.