U.S. airports have nearly $100 billion in infrastructure needs during 2017 – 2021 to accommodate growth in passenger and cargo activity, rehabilitate existing facilities, and support aircraft innovation, according to a report released in March by Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), the trade association representing commercial service airports in the United States and Canada.
“America’s airports have real and significant unmet needs that threaten their ability to serve their passengers, grow their local economies, and create good paying jobs,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “The longer we delay, the more America’s airports will fall behind and our infrastructure needs will become even more expensive to fix.”
Airport Infrastructure Needs: 2017-2021 details the scope of airport infrastructure needs and projects, including those projects not eligible for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funding. ACI-NA estimates that U.S. airports have a collective funding need of $99.9 billion over the next five years, or nearly $20 billion per year, to begin these projects.
The latest $99.9 billion figure outlined in the infrastructure report represents a 32 percent increase in airport infrastructure needs since the last ACI-NA estimate released in 2015. Infrastructure needs at large, medium, and small hub airports that enplane 99.8 percent of U.S. passenger traffic have increased nearly 42 percent in just two years.
Sixty-three percent of the increase in infrastructure needs is attributed to passenger and cargo growth, with 30 percent attributable to the need to continually maintain a good state of repair for aging airport facilities. As the demand for passenger and cargo services continues to grow, so will the corresponding increase in airport infrastructure development and maintenance costs.
Key Findings from Airport Infrastructure Needs: 2017-2021
- Terminal projects represent 54.1 percent of overall airport infrastructure needs. Landside projects represent 24.7 percent of total needs and airside projects represent 21.1 percent of total needs.
- Large hub airports, which handle 72.6 percent of all enplanements, account for $60.4 billion of total airport infrastructure needs. Large hub airports reported an increase of 50.6 percent in infrastructure needs from 2015. Terminal projects represent 59.6 percent of large hub airport infrastructure needs. Landside projects represent 24.5 percent and airside projects represent 16 percent of large hub airport infrastructure needs.
- Medium hub airports, which handle 15.4 percent of all enplanements, account for $11.7 billion of total airport infrastructure needs. Medium hub airports reported an increase of 28.8 percent in infrastructure needs from 2015. Terminal projects represent 32 percent of medium hub airport infrastructure needs. Landside projects represent 31.5 percent and airside projects represent 36.5 percent of medium hub airport infrastructure needs.
- Small hub airports, which handle 8.4 percent of all enplanements, account for $8.5 billion of total airport infrastructure needs. Terminal projects represent 35.4 percent of small hub airport infrastructure needs. Landside projects represent 14.3 percent and airside projects represent 50.3 percent of small hub airport infrastructure needs.
The overall increase in airport infrastructure needs reflects the fact that a recovering economy and increasing traffic demand, coupled with airline consolidation and their strategic shift to focus on hub operations, require large and medium hub airports to invest in major infrastructure improvement projects. Despite a decrease in flights at many small airports, additional funding is still needed for upgrading aging infrastructure, meeting federal mandates, and improving the passenger experience.
A Solution With No Federal Budget Impact
The $20 billion in average annual infrastructure funding needs for U.S. airports is more than double funding currently available through annual airport generated net income, Passenger Facility Charge user fee revenue, and Airport Improvement Program grants.
Congress can help promote the self-sufficiency of America’s airports in meeting their own infrastructure needs with no new federal investment by eliminating the outdated federal cap on the local user fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). Eliminating the federal cap on the PFC would restore the PFC’s lost purchasing power and provide airports with the ability to set their own levels based on locally-determined needs to ensure the continued safety, security, and improvement of their facilities with no impact on the federal budget.
“Local user fees are the most affordable and most responsible method for modernizing our airport infrastructure,” said Kevin M. Burke. “By giving airports the ability to meet their local infrastructure needs without relying on additional federal funding, airports will be well positioned to maintain their leadership in the global aviation system. Time is of the essence. We must act now to get Washington out of the way and eliminate the outdated federal restrictions that hold America’s airports back.”