http://www.orlandosentinel.com/busin...ness-headlines


At stake is how much money Disney pays the airport per passenger it transports and whether the airport will require the service be operated on both sides of the terminal rather than just one as it is now.

The airlines have largely backed the program because it has reduced their baggage-handling loads and helped shorten ticket-counter lines.

But because a group of airlines is responsible for budget shortfalls at Orlando International, the carriers have also taken an intense interest.

"You had a difference of opinion at first of what the impacts might be financially," said Southwest Airlines Properties Manager Randy Gillespie, who also serves as chairman of an airlines committee. "All we're trying to do is separate fact from fiction."

As early as January 2005 -- about four months before Magical Express began -- then-Executive Director Bill Jennings and other senior airport staffers expressed concern about the services' anticipated impact.

Minutes from a meeting of airport staffers, airline executives and a Disney executive, show that Jennings told the airlines he expected the service to reach 2 million passengers a year and it could harm rental-car companies.

"The staff at the Aviation Authority found the concept attractive; however, there are serious concerns about the impact on rental-car revenues at the Airport," the minutes state.

As part of the agreement negotiated in 2004, Disney pays the airport 50 cents per passenger. Jennings said he tried to negotiate a clause in the contract that would allow the airport to raise that fee after the first six months of the service, but did not prevail, according to the minutes.

The airport's estimated lost revenue per passenger was $7.70, according to the minutes of the Jan. 25, 2005, Airlines/Airport Affairs Committee. That figure was arrived at by a former airport consultant who analyzed rental-car data.