Oakland, CA (October 3, 2007) Omar Benjamin, Executive Director, Port of Oakland releases the following statement:
"We apologize and express deepest concern that our military troops aboard North American Airlines Flight #1777 had a negative experience that has been perceived as disrespectful. This is the first such incident of this type at our airport and we are committed to seeing that nothing like this ever happens again. This was clearly a matter of miscommunication. It was an isolated incident involving several parties and all established federal security procedures were followed. This situation impresses upon us all that there is a need for greater clarity and consistency in the way that these procedures are followed. We are committed to doing everything within our power to insure that there will always be appropriate and respectful treatment of our esteemed traveling military personnel."
Omar Benjamin, Executive Director, Port of Oakland, owner and operator of Oakland International Airport.
Oakland, CA (October 2, 2007) Deborah Ale-Flint, Assistant Director of Aviation, Port of Oakland delivered the following statement to members of the press:
TSA - Nico Melendez, 909-472-0142
North American Airlines - Steve Forsyth, 770-632-8322
Hilltop Aviation - Michael Sawley, 510-577-6710
"Hello. My name is Deborah Ale-Flint. I'm the Assistant Director of Aviation here at Oakland International Airport, which is owned and operated by the Port of Oakland.
With me here today are a few other Port of Oakland representatives:
o Omar Benjamin, Executive Director;
o Joe Wong, Deputy Executive Director - Operations & Administration; and
o Harold Jones, Deputy Executive Director - External Affairs.
We have invited you here today to provide you with more information about a military charter flight which operated at Oakland International Airport on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007.
But first, I want you to know that all of us here at Oakland International proudly serve and support our nation's military service men, women, and their families and friends. They are always treated with the highest level of respect and we go out of our way to ensure that their travel experience through our airport is in line with our very high customer service standards.
Oakland International Airport has had a long history of working with the military. Oakland was the Bay Area's airport launch point during the Vietnam conflict for military transport aircraft. Also, Port of Oakland leadership has had a strong military background, with three past Port Executive Directors who held various positions in the U.S. military.
We are extremely sorry that we inconvenienced some of our service men, women and their families and friends during their brief stay here in Oakland last week. I also want to acknowledge the hurt feelings of many in our community, both locally and nationally, as a result of this situation.
We want you all to know that Port of Oakland staff is taking a leadership role to address the mistakes that were made involving this North American Airlines flight, and we are working with all parties involved so that we can prevent this from occurring again.
Here are some details of the military charter flight which landed and departed Oakland last Thursday.
North American Airlines, a charter airline, was contracted by the U.S. military to transport service people from Iraq to Hawaii, with a few aircraft service stops scheduled in the U.S. Oakland was one of these locations.
Airport personnel had worked with Hilltop Aviation, a ground handler here at Oakland which contracts with North American Airlines, to coordinate the aircraft arrangements and passenger handling for this flight.
Airport staff was notified by Hilltop Aviation that the passengers on this flight were not screened per Transportation Security Administration (TSA) procedures. Also, we were notified that weapons were on-board this flight. Airport procedure is to park aircraft away from the terminal building when these two conditions are present. Together with the TSA, this decision was confirmed to Hilltop Aviation.
Please understand that commercial airports, such as Oakland International, pose a very unique operating environment. We are governed by federal rules and regulations pertaining to passenger and aircraft handling, and the safety and security of all who use our airport is our number one priority.
Airport staff did not receive advance notice from Hilltop Aviation that some of the service men and women on-board had anticipated meeting family and friends during their brief stay here in Oakland. If this information had been shared in advance, there would have been a different outcome.
In fact, North American Airlines operated another military charter flight here into Oakland earlier on the same day. There was a specific request from Hilltop Aviation to Airport staff to allow these passengers to come into the terminal building, and this was coordinated successfully with Hilltop Aviation and the TSA.
While we cannot speak for the other parties involved in coordinating this military charter flight, we do encourage you to contact them directly with any further questions."
Deborah Ale-Flint, Assistant Director of Aviation, Port of Oakland, owner and operator of Oakland International Airport.