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Houston's Kitchens is Craig's choice to head Manchester-Boston Regional Airport

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 18. 2018 12:29PM
A passenger makes her way through Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — The general manager of the nation’s 13th-largest airport in Houston, Texas, is Mayor Joyce Craig’s pick to become the new chief executive of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

Theodore “Ted” Kitchens, 45, for the last three years has been general manager of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport and his extensive experience has included work as an aviation consultant in Massachusetts and Vermont.

A Baltimore, Md., native, Kitchens has also held leadership roles at airports in Atlanta and Newport News, Va.

Despite its challenges that include a long streak of slumping sales, Kitchens said Manchester’s stellar reputation and the appeal of living in New Hampshire were attractions he couldn’t resist.

“There are many reasons this airport attracted my attention both personally and professionally,” Kitchens said during a telephone interview Tuesday.

“The airport is very well respected in the airport management profession. New England and Manchester specifically is known nationwide as a great place to raise a family and that quality of life was a big selling point for me.”

Craig said the field of 29 applicants was top shelf, but Kitchens stood out and was the unanimous pick of a six-person, national search committee she led.

“Mr. Kitchens has nearly 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, including positions at small-hub and large-hub airports that give him a unique skill set that will be beneficial to Manchester,” Craig said. “He has a thorough understanding of airport operations and has a demonstrated ability to be the creative and analytical leader our airport and city needs.”

Tom Malafronte has been serving as acting airport director since March 1, when former director Mark Brewer retired after a decade on the job.

If confirmed, Kitchens’ starting salary as airport director will be $203,513 annually. At the time of his departure, Brewer was paid $233,000, which was the top salary for any public official in the city.

A national firm that specializes in aviation and aerospace management job searches, ADK, was paid $36,900 to assist in the recruitment, a cost the airport picked up within its budget, officials said.

Passenger traffic at Manchester has declined for 12 consecutive years. Expectations are that 2017 is likely to be the first time this century that annual passenger traffic will dip below 2 million.

Earlier this month, United Airlines announced it will no longer offer service between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, effective Sept. 5.

The flights were stopped as part of an effort to “maximize our domestic network and best serve our customers,” a United spokesman said.

Kitchens said he’s optimistic about business improving in Manchester and that sharpening the budget pencil would help make that a reality.

“The cost per enplanement, that’s the cost the airlines are all looking into,” Kitchens said. “Manchester is still competitive with Boston and with Providence, You are in line with the chief competitors; that is something we should pay attention to. I will be looking forward to working with the team to lower our cost structure that gets passed on to airlines and to our customers.”

The top selling points for the region are a growing population, strong family income growth and a diverse economy, he said.

“Within 45 minutes of the airport you have close to four million people,” Kitchens said. “That’s a strong foundation.”

The first priority is to firm up the relationships Manchester has with its existing airlines — Southwest, American, Delta and United — before pursuing new airline business, he said.

“I don’t want to spill the strategy,” Kitchens said.

In the three years managing the $152 million budget at the Houston airport, Kitchens worked through Hurricane Harvey in 2016 and the logistical challenges of a Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and World Series in the city.

“Every place has its unique challenges and I am not willing to shy away from the challenges,” Kitchens said.

The aldermen voted to set the nomination aside until their next meeting on Aug. 14, when Kitchens is expected to be confirmed.

In the meantime, Craig said Kitchens intends to come to New Hampshire to meet with aldermen before the vote.

The tentative starting date for Kitchens to take the post is Oct. 1, Craig said.

Transportation Local and County Government Manchester

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