Saturday, April 2, 2005
It’s not a pajama party at airport protest in S.J.
PROTESTERS SAY NEW AMERICA WEST LAS VEGAS FLIGHT WILL DISRUPT SLEEP
By Sandra Gonzales
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News
Angry over America West’s new flight from Las Vegas that will begin arriving daily at 1:25 a.m. starting Sunday, about 25 people donned bathrobes and pajamas and circled in protest outside the airline’s terminal in San Jose. “If they can do this, other airlines are going to want to do the same thing. This is a camel’s nose under the tent,” said Janet Gray Hayes, a former San Jose mayor who lives less than two miles from the airport and carried a blow-up doll of the central figure in Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.”
Her husband joined her in the small, quiet protest at Mineta San Jose International Airport. “This is an unwarranted and grossly inconsiderate intrusion into our curfew and sleep hours,” said Kenneth Hayes, chairman of Citizens Against Air Pollution.
Starting this weekend, America West will fly a 50-passenger regional jet from Las Vegas that will arrive at 1:25 a.m. — drawing the ire of residents who say that it violates the spirit of the airport’s noise curfew. Under a 2003 ordinance, aircraft that produce more than 89 decibels of sound are not allowed to operate at the airport between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
America West is using a CRJ-200 jet that generates a noise level ranging from 84.4 to 84.7 decibels, exempting it from the curfew.
“We certainly respect the people’s will and their opinion,” said Nelson Camacho, an America West spokesman who watched the protest. “Nonetheless, we believe this is a piece of travel that will benefit the community and airport.”
Despite the boycott of the airline called by San Jose City Councilman Ken Yeager, Camacho said the service has been well-received with strong bookings. The first two Las Vegas flights are sold out and the rest of the flights for its first week in service are nearly full.
America West said the number of complaints it has received is in the low hundreds. “We received more e-mails of support than against the service,” Camacho said.
Airport spokesman Rich Dressler said Hewlett Packard flies corporate jets similar to the one America West plans to use and the airport has not received any complaints about it.
“This type of plane has been flying in during the curfew for years,” Dressler said.
Friday’s protest, led by Yeager, who encouraged complaints to the airline, was relatively calm except for a few occasional chants of, “More flights, sleepless nights.” Still, Yeager said it was a “nice turnout,” and about what was expected.
“What concerns me is if we weren’t out here protesting, all the other airlines will say no one cares and begin scheduling flights during curfew hours,” Yeager said.