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FlyORH: The Next Moves For Worcester Airport

Thursday, January 02, 2014


With JetBlue's service from ORH in full swing, it's time to look at the next move.

As I write this FlyORH column, the 36th straight JetBlue flight has operated out of Worcester without any diversions. That brings the total to 196 flights with 21 diversions or 10.70%. This was completely expected, although maybe slightly higher these first two months, when JetBlue decided to fly into Worcester without Cat III landing equipment. Here is a great link to a blog JetBlue did on the fog.

This must be the second or third time I have written about this, but it is important. JetBlue does a great job taking care of passengers with ground transportation when a flight is diverted on the same day. My brother-in-law flew in one night before Thanksgiving from Fort Lauderdale, but the plane had to land in Boston due to fog. A bus was waiting and brought him back to Worcester where I picked him up. It was very smooth and saved me the trip to Boston.

Where they falter

The problem is when the night Fort Lauderdale inbound is diverted to Boston. The next morning's outbound Orlando, which uses the same plane, will start from Boston. The current procedure is to simply notify these passengers of the change—they need to get to Boston without any ground transportation being provided. Good luck! If you drive to Boston and park, your car will be there, not Worcester, when you return.

 Imagine planning for a trip to Orlando tomorrow and getting a message today that you need to be in Boston tomorrow morning for your 7:45 AM flight. What if you got a message that said: Your flight departure has been changed to Boston. Bus service will be provided out of Worcester for $10 per passenger, if desired.

Opportunities for improvement

As JetBlue, however, has brought the humanity back into air travel, Massport needs to provide better customer service to their passengers flying out of Worcester when this happens until Cat III is installed. Don’t get me wrong, I think Massport has done a great job, but has completely dropped the ball on this one. But they can solve it very easily with one phone call to Silver Fox Bus Lines in Millbury.

Lastly, I have always maintained that there is no need for an access road. Worcester Airport needs better signage, but other than that, it is quite easy to reach without any tolls, traffic or tunnels. Recently, the Callahan Tunnel was closed at midnight until March for repairs. Do you have any idea how much more difficult it will be to get to Logan? People may be taking a closer look at Worcester during this time period; let’s make their experience first class.


Related Slideshow: 7 Questions Worcester Mayor Petty Will Need To Answer

The following are seven big questions facing Worcester Mayor Petty in his secon term in office.  

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1) City Manager's Position May Be Vacant

Michael O'Brien may leave to take a position in the private sector. O'Brien has been the proverbial glue that has held City Hall together.  O'Brien is a competent fiscal manager and keeps the peace among the City Council.
Top-level government pros are NOT likely to line up for the Worcester job. Petty will be on the hot seat to find  talent in the post-O'Brien era.
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2) Economic Development Mixed Reviews

The recent series in the Boston Globe and the overview in GoLocal outlined the lack of success Worcester has had in creating a comprehensive economic development plan.  The results of the new construction has created some hope, but there lacks a comprehensive vision and the building seems to be developed in a vacuum.  Mayor Petty seems to be extraneous except for the ribbon cutting ceremonies. 
The biggest embarrassment was his lack of input into the casino process. Petty had no public opinion on the projects proposed in Worcester or the projects in adjacent towns.
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3) New Council

The new City Council will have its own personality, while the old council failed to debate or discuss - and too often voted in block.

A number of the council members just elected have promised to be more proactive. This could be a challenge for Petty -- or an opportunity to drive proactive change leveraging new ideas and new energy.

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4) Telegram Closing?

Since John Henry purchased both the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram, there have been a series of indications that Henry has a strong desire to invest in the Globe and has not said a public word or even visited the Telegram. Media experts have prophesied that the Telegram could be rolled into the Globe - a Globe West edition.
This would leave New England's second largest city  without a daily newspaper. What has been deafening is Petty's lack of leadership on this issue.  Can you imagine Tom Menino or Buddy Cianci waiting for a decision to be made on Morrissey Boulevard?
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5) Lack of Diversity in Worcester's Government 

As GoLocal previously reported, more than 40 percent of Worcester's population is a minority, but you would not know it by who gets the city jobs. Worcester has more than 1,600 full- and part-time city employees and well over 80 percent of them are white.
In almost every department, the number of white workers far outnumbers minorities; some departments are as much as 98 percent white. It is a startling disparity in a city known for its diversity. There has been no concerted public effort to change this by Petty.
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6) Republican Governor Factor

Worcester may not be as wired to the Patrick Administration since Lt. Governor Murray resigned and returned to Worcester, but the Democratic Mayor can get his phone calls answered in the State House. 
The next Governor of the Commonwealth could be Charlie Baker. The Democrats are looking at a bruising primary between AG Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman, while Charlie Baker is looking like he may get a free ride through the GOP primary. Baker may not be so quick to be concerned about Joe Petty's phone calls.
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7) Legacy

Every Mayor wants to leave his or her city better than they found it -- and wanst to put a mark on the history of the City. Some Mayors focus on schools and others on major developments.
Mayor Petty has yet to define his priorities and the second term is the time to unveil a game plan on why he was the man for the job.

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