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Sunday, Aug 7, 2022
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Flyaway

CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter Concerned that the San Fernando Valley is losing out to companies “over the hill” in the battle for tourist dollars, Valley business leaders have proposed turning the Van Nuys Flyaway into a true satellite terminal for L.A. International Airport. The idea is to market the flyaway as a dropping-off point for business people and tourists who wish to attend conferences at Valley-based hotels or visit local amusement parks, such as Universal Studios or Six Flags Magic Mountain, said David Iwata, president of the San Fernando Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, which came up with the notion. The tourists could leave Sepulveda Pass traffic to a bus driver while waiting until they reach the flyaway to rent a car or hop a shuttle to Valley hotels, said Iwata. “When you go to any of the major cities like Tokyo, London or Paris, they all have similar terminal buildings,” he said. “We need to make the San Fernando Valley, No. 1 accessible, and No. 2 user friendly.” The flyaway would be renamed the Los Angeles International Airport San Fernando Valley Satellite Terminal Building (Van Nuys), with clearly marked signs at LAX that would give tourists the option of taking the bus to the Valley. Iwata has presented the idea to the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. VICA’s Transportation Committee took up the proposal at its July 7 meeting, with members voting unanimously to pass the idea along to the full board for consideration at its July 27 meeting. Robert Rodine, a member of the VICA committee and a financial consultant with the Polaris Group, said the idea has potential for boosting the Valley’s tourism industry. “It would provide a bigger incentive for people to come to the Valley,” he said. “By enhancing the area, we can make it a target for inbound tourists.” Conversely, service might be expanded at the flyaway so that residents wishing to fly out of Los Angeles International Airport could check their bags and obtain seat assignments, saving them from that hassle at LAX, he said. The Van Nuys Flyaway, located at Woodley Avenue and Saticoy Street at Van Nuys Airport, is designed to relieve traffic congestion at LAX by providing travelers with cheap parking and bus service to the airport. Several domestic air carriers, including U.S. Air, Delta, United, Continental and American, have ticket counters in a small terminal building at the flyaway, but none of the carriers provide baggage check-in. John Driscoll, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Airports, which operates the flyaway service, said the department is open to any idea that would relieve traffic congestion at LAX, especially as the city plans for a $8 billion to $12 billion expansion of the airport. Under its growth scenarios, the airport’s capacity would be expanded from the current 60 million passengers a year to 98 million passengers, with three times the current cargo load passing through the facility. While he is open to the idea of improving services at the Van Nuys Flyaway, Driscoll said the proposal would require participation by the airlines and rental car companies, which may be problematic. Airlines, for example, may be hesitant to provide baggage check-in services at the flyaway out of security concerns, he said. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether tourists would be willing to ride a bus into the Valley to rent a car, as opposed to just renting one near the airport and hitting the freeway. “I don’t think studying the feasibility would be difficult to do. What’s the market for rental cars? Would it work out there? Whether or not airlines would be willing to provide remote baggage check-in, that’s all worth consideration,” Driscoll said. Larry Gray, co-chair of the VICA transportation committee, said he believes tourists would be interested in coming to the flyaway, especially if they already were planning to stay in a Valley hotel, or visit local attractions. By turning the flyaway into a more effective transportation hub, tourists, or business people could catch a shuttle to the Warner Center Marriott, for example, or pick up a rental car. “The advantage to tourists is they get a way to get around more easily in the Valley,” he said. Gray conceded that attracting tourists will require repackaging the flyaway and improving its facilities. “To show up there at a lonely little terminal just doesn’t do it,” he said. With support from VICA and other business groups, Iwata said the flyaway might qualify for federal funding under the $200 billion transportation funding package recently signed by President Bill Clinton. The legislation also provides money for transportation enhancements, such as tourist information centers. Iwata said he has also approached the Mid Valley Chamber of Commerce, which will take up the proposal in late July. Next he’ll take the idea to the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley, the city Department of Airports and the Los Angeles City Council. “One thing we have to do is make it easier for tourists to come to the Valley,” he said.

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