Municipal Airport Commission Chairman Kay Kelley Arnold on Renaming Little Rock National

Kay Kelley Arnold, chairman of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission, is also vice president of public affairs for Entergy Corp., where she leads the utility’s civic and social responsibility programs.

Arnold, a native of Heber Springs, is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law.

Arnold got her start in politics and business while working with then-Gov. Bill Clinton and his staff. She went on to become the founding director of the Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas office and headed the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Arnold then went to work as general manager of corporate communications for Arkansas Power & Light, which later became Entergy Arkansas.

Q: What’s the impact of having a famous name for the airport?

A: The commission named the airport to honor the Clintons’ more than 30 years of public service to Arkansas, the United States and the world as well as to recognize their place in American history. The Clintons are the first, and quite possibly the only, couple that will ever serve as president and secretary of state. They also continue to have a far-reaching effect after leaving office with the worldwide impact of their foundation. In Little Rock, there has been a $2.5 billion economic development in downtown since President Clinton chose to build his library here.

As a longtime friend and associate of the Clintons, did you play a role in persuading them to attend the May 3 dedication?

No persuasion was necessary. The Clintons are extremely flattered that the airport has been named in their honor, and they’re looking forward to participating in the dedication ceremony.

How long until LIT can add “International” to its name by offering nonstop commercial flights to destinations abroad?

Becoming an international airport is certainly in our strategic plan, but right now it’s difficult to say exactly when that will occur. An international airport requires a considerable amount of additional infrastructure to process passengers through customs and immigration. We have reservations about investing in that type of facility until we have strong interest from an airline. However, international flights do land at LIT on a prearranged basis. Dassault Falcon, for example, flies jets from France to its completion center here in Little Rock.

What’s the Phase 1 improvement that you think airport visitors will most appreciate?

I believe the ticket lobby and new baggage screening system are the greatest benefits to passengers as these enhancements will make it easier for them to check in for their flight. Our new baggage-screening system allows passengers to resume checking bags at the ticket counter where items are automatically sent through a fascinating mile of conveyor belts for screening with state-of-the-art technology. Baggage screening was previously handled in the lobby, which wasn’t efficient and took up a lot of space. We’ve also invested in more energy-efficient systems, and now have a recycling program.

What’s your favorite airport in the world?

Obviously, Bill & Hillary Clinton National is my favorite! Austin-Bergstrom International in Texas is the runner-up. I love Austin because from the moment you enter the terminal you know you’re in Texas. The airport has done a phenomenal job of incorporating architecture, art, food and music, which clearly communicate where you are. I want our airport to also speak as clearly so that when you arrive you know you’re home.

London Heathrow is my favorite airport abroad. It has great shopping, restaurants and even a gym, spa services and hot showers to help you recover while changing planes and getting ready for the next leg of very long flights.