SJ Mineta Airport may cut jobs

January 23, 2009 7:01:45 AM PST
Nervous workers at Mineta San Jose International Airport are anxiously waiting to find out who will get pink slips because of the sour economy. The airport could cut more than 100 jobs because of a growing budget deficit.

With a mass staff cut, passengers will eventually notice the loss in several ways -- this includes fewer people to ask for help, and when it comes to maintenance, possibly fuller trash cans and dimmer lighting.

Airport officials at Mineta San Jose International hope that by cutting more than 100 jobs in the next 18 months, they can close a projected budget gap of $35 million by 2010. Total cuts would reduce a budgeted staff of 400 to 270 - a number it's not had since the mid-1990s. The plan is to immediately eliminate 45 vacant positions and lay off 30 to 40 employees this summer and also the next one.

The problem is airport revenue has dropped dramatically during this economic recession -- several airlines at San Jose's airport have cut back long-haul flights because fewer passengers are flying. This is a scenario happening at airports around the country.

In 2008 passenger traffic at Mineta San Jose dropped almost nine percent, that's almost one million passengers, versus 2007. Oakland's airport expects a decrease of about 30 percent for its 2008 numbers; the only increase last year was at SFO, where air traffic actually grew by eight percent. One of the airport's main sources of revenue is per-passenger fees for airlines -- these have risen steeply over the past few years, but SJC can't push too hard to increase them more because it would risk driving carriers away to competing airports.

In addition to cutting staff to close the budget gap, the airport also plans to try to increase revenue from new concessions; refinance debt; and defer some maintenance and capital projects. Although it will still continue construction on the $1.35 billion airport modernization project, which includes a new terminal. Since once the economy improves, the airport expects long-term passenger growth.