Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

HEB Grocery buys more area property; will supermarkets follow?

American Airlines is offering snacks for delayed passengers in New York.
American Airlines is offering snacks for delayed passengers in New York.

San Antonio-based HEB Grocery Co. has acquired two more pieces of property in Tarrant County, adding to speculation that the South Texas supermarket chain is plotting an expansion in North Texas.

In November, the company bought a 17.8-acre tract at the northeast corner of Cheek-Sparger Road and Heritage Avenue in the Glade Parks development in Euless, deed records show. That fast-growing shopping center has already attracted several retailers including Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dave & Buster’s.

And in December, the grocer bought an 18.2-acre tract at the southeast corner of U.S. 287 and Bond Ranch Road in north Fort Worth.

HEB is a leading grocer in San Antonio and Austin. It also operates Central Market, which has stores in Fort Worth and Southlake, and it already owns several vacant parcels in Tarrant County and other parts of the Metroplex.

In Tarrant County, its holdings include land off Quail Valley Drive and North Tarrant Parkway; Boat Club and Bailey-Boswell roads near Eagle Mountain Lake, and off Lake Ridge Parkway in Grand Prairie, according to deed records.

The company has declined to talk about its plans for the properties. The chain has HEB grocery stores in Burleson, Granbury and Cleburne, and plans to open in Hudson Oaks west of Fort Worth this year. Sandra Baker

American tests free food during delays

When writer Shawn Landres’ flight from New York to Los Angeles was delayed, he tweeted about his two-hour-plus wait.

But it wasn’t an angry tweet at American Airlines or a complaint about the delay. Instead, he was happy to have a free snack while he sat in the terminal.

American hopes to make long waits a little easier for passengers with a new test program at New York’s JFK Airport that brings free food to delayed customers.

“When we know there is a delay of over two hours, we bring out the snacks and drinks to the gate,” said Gina Emrich, manager of service recovery planning for American, noting that the delay could be the result of weather or a maintenance issue.

The pilot program was launched in late December and American hired a vendor to help bring the food and drinks to gates when delays occur. Initially, chips, fresh fruit and cold drinks are offered. If a flight delay stretches past three hours, free sandwiches are brought to the gate.

So far, customers have given American positive feedback on social media about the program.

“It’s great for customers and it’s great for employees to help ease the tension in the boarding area when there is a delay,” said Jill Surdek, American’s vice president of customer planning.

The food has been offered in place of meal vouchers that usually are handed out to passengers during a lengthy delay. Surdek said that by eliminating the voucher line, front-line employees are able to spend more time rebooking and reaccommodating passengers.

In the first month, American offered the complimentary food to about 100 delayed flights at JFK. It plans to test the program at Los Angeles Airport later this month and another airport that has yet to be determined, Surdek said.

American is also experimenting with breakfast items, including muffins, for morning flights that are delayed.

Surdek would not say how much the pilot snack program is costing American but said it is one of several intiatives that the airline is testing to improve customers’ experiences when flights are delayed.

Unfortunately, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport customers will have to wait as American doesn’t plan to test the program at its largest hub yet.

F-35 ramp-up on track in Fort Worth

The Pentagon’s budget proposal unveiled this week trimmed some purchases of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets over the next five years. But don’t worry: the anticipated rampup of F-35 production in Fort Worth is still on track.

That was the word from Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the military’s chief of the F-35 program, when he met with reporters on Wednesday.

According to reports from Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, Bogdan said foreign orders for the next-generation aircraft will make up for any reduction in Air Force orders. He projected domestic and international sales of 873 jets by 2021, with production reach a peak of 160 to 170 jets a year by the middle of the next decade.

“The program right now is accelerating,” said Bogdan, as quoted in the Journal.

Lockheed’s mile-long Fort Worth plant is in the midst of a $1.2 billion reconfiguration to accommodate the added activity. During a conference call with Wall Street last month, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said the company expects to build 53 F-35s this year, up from 45 last year, then 59 or 60 in 2017 and as many as 100 in 2018.

The ramp-up will bring additional jobs to Fort Worth. The company expects to add 1,000 assembly line jobs as it increases production. Lockheed employs about 13,000 people in Fort Worth, with 8,800 assigned to the F-35 program.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko