Airports face an annual $10-billion shortfall to meet their rising infrastructure needs, which total $99.9 billion over the next five years, an airport group says in a new report.
Airport officials are hoping that President Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure investment plan will include provisions to address the gap. They also are continuing to push for Congress to remove the limit on passenger facility charges (PFCs), an important airport infrastructure funding stream. But airport groups face opposition from major airlines and Trump’s reluctance to raise fees and taxes.
The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) report, released on March 7, says the $99.9-billion needs for the 2017-21 period are up 32% from the total in its last study, issued in 2015. It says airports generate about $10 billion a year—half their annual needs—from sources such as their own income, federal grants and PFCs. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates PFC collections at $3.1 billion in 2016.
The report says projected gains in passenger and cargo volume account for 63% of the increased infrastructure needs; 30% is due to costs of maintaining existing facilities.
Terminal projects account for 54.1% of total needs; landside projects, such as roads and transit lines, account for 24.7%. More than 60% of the needs are at large hub airports. Hubs’ infrastructure needs have climbed 50.6% from 2015.
Airline and airport officials met with Trump on Feb. 9 in the Oval Office, and one attendee, not identified in the White House transcript of the meeting, brought up PFCs. The maximum fee is $4.50 per flight segment, or $18 per round trip; it has remained at that level since 2000.
But Trump said, “The problem is, I don’t like raising fees or taxes—I’ll be honest.” Large airlines also have opposed an increase in the PFCs.
Nevertheless, airports are continuing their PFC campaign. “Local user fees are the most affordable and most responsible method for modernizing our airport infrastructure,” Kevin M. Burke, ACI-NA president and CEO, said in a statement.
Testifying before the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee on March 8, Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives president and CEO, made a pitch for removing the PFC limit. Hauptli said, “This [action] is the single-biggest bang for the infrastructure buck with the least impact on the federal budget.”