Director gives glowing report of airport developments

Posted 11/23/23

Iftikhar Ahmad, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, likes to think of Green Airport as the little engine that could.

He made the analogy when addressing Warwick Rotary …

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Director gives glowing report of airport developments


Iftikhar Ahmad, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, likes to think of Green Airport as the little engine that could.

He made the analogy when addressing Warwick Rotary Club Thursday, highlighting both developments and plans for Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. On the list of accomplishments he pointed out that all but a few domestic airlines fly out of Green; the number of non-stop destinations from Green, commencement of construction of new air cargo facilities and the icing on the cake: the airport having been named one of the top ten globally by Conde Nast. Ahmad lingered on the designation, emphasizing that Rhode Island’s airport is ranked ahead for far bigger airports in Europe, Asia and across the world. According to its website, Conde Nast ranks Green as third in readers’ choice in the nation.

Ahmad, who came to Rhode Island seven years ago from New Orleans where he served as the Chief Executive of the Louis Armstrong International Airport, said Green is “doing well.” He said the airport’s mission “is to connect Rhode Island to the rest of the world…that’s what we’d all like to see.”

He said his efforts have been targeted on reducing the cost for airlines doing business in Rhode Island and elevating the experience of travelers using Green. He mentioned improved terminal restrooms, and that RIAC is embarking on terminal improvements.

His audience chuckled as he related how in introducing himself at aviation conventions vendors would spot his Green Airport badge and not knowing of the airport thought he was a salesman for cleaning detergent. No doubt that served as impetus to change the name of the airport, which he discovered met far more resistance than he thought possible when it came to dropping the name of the late Rhode Island Senator Theodore Francis Green. Green’s name was kept, with the addition of “Rhode Island” “International.”

While there are some charter international flights from Green, there are no scheduled flights since Norwegian Air ceased service to Ireland after all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded from March 2019 to December 2020 in the wake of two accidents. The majority of the Norwegian Air fleet is 737 Max’s .He pointed out that Green has the facilities to handle international flights.

Ahmad looks to relatively new discount carrier Breeze Airways, which is in the process of making Green an operations center where it will station up to eight aircraft as reestablishing flights to Europe.

Ahmad placed a lot of Green’s success on Rhode Island Commerce’s  destination marketing efforts. He noted to the surprise of some that RIAC is restricted by the FAA from doing that form of marketing and is dependent on the state and tourism bureaus to promote Rhode Island.

“We have to market our beautiful state,” he said.

Ahmad said RIAC is embarking on $350 million of work related to the six state airports overseen by RIAC. Some of those funds will be directed to the Bruce Sundlun Terminal at Green where improvements will “look like an executive lounge.” Slides accompanied his presentation with renderings of what’s planned.

Ahmad did not elaborate on plans to relocate air cargo operations from north of the terminal to new $100 million facilities south of the terminal in an area once used for long term parking. He said construction has started, although there is no visible sign of that and Mayor Frank Picozzi hasn’t signed off on the environmental assessment approved by the FAA.  Picozzi wants a memorandum of understanding that ground traffic using the facility will access and egress from the Airport Connector, rather than using Main Avenue or Post Road. He is also looking for RIAC to pay for a berm and wall to reduce noise and visual pollution from the facility that would back up to a residential community.

Ahmad said the new and larger facility, for which agreements have already been signed with UPS and FedEx, would result in one or two additional flights daily.

Ahmad painted a picture of increased airport traffic benefiting the Rhode Island economy and Rhode Islanders as competing airlines would bring lower fares to the consumer. That would mean an increased number of flights, noise and traffic.

“Sometimes you have to do things for the betterment of the community,” he said. 

airport, air cargo, developments


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