Massport: Logan Ready for Holiday Travel After Summer of Delays

Officials with the Massachusetts Port Authority promise that Logan International Airport will be ready for the holiday travel season after runway construction last summer sent delays skyrocketing during the airport's busiest time.

Major reconstruction of the most used runway resulted in delayed departures in June jumping from around 17.5 percent — roughly where delays at Logan have hovered over the last couple of years — to 30 percent, according to federal transportation data.

"It's a very important project, not unlike roads and bridges," said David Ishihara, director of aviation operations at Massport. "It's infrastructure that needs to be maintained."

Ishihara said delays returned to the airport's norm after major work wrapped up this summer on schedule. Other minor work on the runway, including a light pier in the harbor, finished early.

"We're over that hump and we're looking forward to the holiday season at this point," he said.

Ishihara promised the airport would be ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel.

"We're ready. We start planning for the holiday travel season far in advance," he said. "We work with the airlines very closely, with the TSA, very closely."

According to the federal data, Logan was the 14th busiest airport in the country in 2015 and 2016, and ranked 29th worst for delays in 2015, and 21st worst in 2016.

Through summer 2017, Logan jumped to 10th worst in delays because of the runway construction.

Logan typically is busiest during the summer and in December, where delays can exceed a quarter of flights.

Air traffic in and out Logan also has increased about 3 percent a year over the last few years. And the airport has unveiled new direct flights to cities in Japan, China, Turkey and Brazil in recent years.

But with its hemmed-in location, Logan is not ideal for expansion.

"The best thing would be to build more runways, but it's actually very hard to build runways," said Dr. John Hansman, professor of aeronautics at MIT. "The last time we tried to build a runway in Boston was to improve performance when the wind is out of the northwest. That runway took about 40 years of negotiation before it actually got built. So it's not a simple thing to add capacity to airports."

Hansman said that Logan is not at capacity, though it is getting there. Short of building new runways, the airport and airlines can juggle their schedules. And Hansman said the Federal Aviation Authority has been working with more efficient ways to taxi and launch planes to cut down delays.

"We have traffic on the roads, we have traffic in the air, so occasionally you are going to be in traffic," he said. "You are going to be delayed. I think knowing that it can happen so you can plan for it is the best thing."

In the meantime, travelers can minimize the risk of delays by, when possible, buying direct flights. Trips using multiple flights have more moving parts and more risk of something being delayed.

Traveling early in the morning helps too, because delays build up and cascade throughout the day.

Federal data shows that the days with the least delays are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

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