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Loss of flights takes its toll on airport businesses

Airport shoe shine St. Louis

Theodore Wilson, right, has shined shoes at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for 33 years. Photo: Post-Dispatch

Ken Leiser of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently found a new economic indicator: the airport shoeshine stand.

He writes:

“As with other airport businesses, the loss of flights has taken a toll on the shoeshine market. In 2001, Lambert officials were guaranteed $105,000 in revenue from the shoeshine operations. When the contract was renewed last week, the minimum annual guarantee had dropped to $45,000.”

Ken says he and his colleagues have written about the airport’s struggles for more than a decade as flights decreased. It lost its major connecting hub status when American Airlines bought TWA, and it endured the post-Sept. 11 airline struggles and an economic recession.  “This story was just one piece of that,” he says.

Fewer passengers and more casually dressed travelers meant fewer possible shoeshine customers, he says. That reality plus information from the St. Louis Airport Authority’s minimum-annual contractual guarantees led him to the story. He says the contractual guarantees to the airport are public records.

“Spend some time talking to shoeshine workers, sky caps and taxicab drivers at your local airport,” Ken says. “They have some great stories.”

In Featured, Transportation | Airlines | Travel.

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