Monthly Archives: December 2009

ACI-NA Supports President Obama’s Plan To Review Aviation Security

Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International-North America, commended President Obama for today ordering the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to review “screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel.”

“ACI-NA several months ago initiated an industry/government effort to review current procedures and policies,” said Principato. “This type of review is needed and, I believe, reform in the basic statute enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is overdue.”

Airports strongly support the president’s call to focus on moving toward a more technology intensive security regime. ACI-NA believes that advanced technology is critical for a more secure and efficient system. Whole Body Imaging is an important component for an effective system and airports look forward to working with DHS, TSA, airlines and Congress as security and privacy issues are considered.

“I also wanted to thank the thousands of airport, airline, DHS and TSA employees that have worked tirelessly since Christmas Day to respond to the terrorist incident and keep the traveling public safe,” said Principato.

See related blog by Greg Principato.

Airports Predominantly Use PFC’s for Terminals, Which Cost More Than Airside Projects

On December 15, Aviation Daily included a small news article noting that Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) collections totaled $71.5 billion between 1992, when collections first began, and November 30, 2009. In Fiscal Year 2010, PFCs are expected to raise $2.8 billion for needed airport improvements, based on FAA enplanement forecasts. Additionally, the article stated that the total costs of the landside projects that PFC collections will partially fund are $25.3 billion. Most of these landside projects—87.5% according to the Aviation Daily article—involve airport terminals. The article contrasted these landside project costs with the total costs of PFC-funded airside projects, noted to be $11.9 billion.

Unfortunately, the direct comparison of landside and airside project costs without any context can leave the reader with the misleading impression that airports are overinvesting in landside projects rather than addressing airside improvements. We thought it would be helpful to dig a bit deeper into the statistics presented in the article to clear up any possible misunderstanding.

The eligibility regulations for using PFC funds and Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant money lead many airports to use their PFC collections to fund needed landside improvements. This is because FAA regulations governing the use of PFCs are less restrictive than those associated with AIP, because PFCs are viewed as “local money”. Accordingly, most airports use their AIP grant and entitlement funds to fund airside projects, reserving their PFC collections for landside projects, including terminal rehabilitation, expansion, or new construction. Thus, one would expect PFCs to be used more frequently and in greater amounts for terminal projects than for airside projects.

It is also worth noting that terminal improvement projects tend to be more complex—and costly—than comparable airside improvement projects. That just makes sense given the complexity of designing and building a modern terminal that complies with the myriad of building and fire codes, security regulations, and environmental rules. Additionally, the needs of both passengers and employees with disabilities must be taken into account.

Data on projects underway in late 2008, from the 2009 ACI-NA’s Capital Needs Survey, show similar figures. There were 73 airports that participated in the survey, evenly spread among large, medium and small hubs. These airports had a total of 295 airside projects under construction, at a price tag of $7.3 billion. There were also 195 landside projects underway, at a value of $11.8 billion.

If you aren’t familiar with this ACI-NA survey, it is the only comprehensive assessment of infrastructure needs for airports of all sizes throughout the United States. This is not a list of “airport wants” as some airlines have suggested, but an assessment of “committed projects” for which financing is secured as well as “uncommitted projects” which have been included in the master plan, airport layout plan, or capital plan and are essential to meet current or future air traffic growth and facility demand. In order for a project to be included in the survey, an airport must believe that airlines will support it or will not block it through the contractual approval process. Additionally, these are projects for which airports expect to obtain all environmental and other local approvals.

The figures for future projects, planned for 2009 – 2013, are shown below:

blog-table

While the next ACI-NA Capital Needs Survey may show some reduction in planned projects, given the reduction in passenger and cargo traffic, two basic tenants remain: There is a need to modernize and expand airport infrastructure and terminal projects cost more than building runways, taxiways and aprons.

By Debby McElroy and Chris Oswald

The Future of Airport Concessions

Be sure to check your mailbox for the latest edition of Centerlines. December’s issue features a cover story on the future of airport concessions and how these programs have adapted to the challenging economy while taking advantage of new opportunities.

December 2009

December 2009

It’s no shock to anyone that the struggling economy has affected airport operations—particularly in the concessions realm. According to the article, while sales per enplaned passenger have held steady, overall revenue at airports is dropping because of the drop in passenger numbers. Specialty retail has been hit the hardest, dropping anywhere from one to eight percent.

But airports and their partners are choosing to take advantage of the economic lull to reevaluate and improve operations. Some concessionaries have changed their hours of operation to meet busy traffic periods and to cut costs. Other airports are offering personal services and conveniences such as pet kennels and sleep hotels. In doing so, airports will be prepared for passenger demands when traffic returns.

Other stories featured in the December issue of Centerlines include:

  • - Airports: Complex Responsibilities in Challenging Times
  • - The Screening Partnership Program: Is the Opt-Out Still an Option?
  • - Enabling the Disabled: Curb-to-Curb Accessibility is a Never-Ending Struggle

Click here to read the cover story. Click here to view the entire December Centerlines issue.

Health Care and Holidays Don’t Mix

By Jane Calderwood, Vice President Government and Political Affairs

As 2009 winds down, the U.S. Senate’s health care slug fest continues to heat up.  And given all the grousing on both sides of the aisle, it is clear the Grinch won’t have time to steal Christmas this year as he’s too busy lurking about the Senate Chamber.  The Senate’s been busy, too, so busy in fact that they are on track to tie or break the record, set at the beginning of World War I for most consecutive days in session.  And they haven’t been working your average 9 to 5 work day.

Capitol in snowSaturday at 1 a.m., in the early hours of what became the biggest December snow storm on record in D.C., the Senate took a procedural vote on the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Appropriations bill.  Six hours later they came back to pass the bill as snow fell fast and furious, at times nearly obscuring the Capitol from view.

And it turned out to be a good thing that the Senate bill clerks got in a little practice last week reading aloud – three hours’ worth of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 700 plus page single payer amendment.  It served them well this weekend when they spent more than seven hours reading the entire 383 page health care amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Monday, just after 1 a.m., the Senate voted 60 to 40 to invoke cloture on the Reid amendment, which contains all the changes made/deals arranged to get 60 votes on final passage of the health care bill.  This vote set the Senate on track for 90 more hours of debate and three more votes – with final passage slated for 7 p.m. Christmas Eve, unless the procedural games are halted.

Of course, Senate passage of a health care reform package doesn’t put the issue to bed.  A joint House-Senate conference committee will need to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill.  Once an agreement is reached by the conferees, it will be sent back to both chambers for a final vote.  So the health care debate will continue to be the focus for Congress as we move into the early months of 2010.

ACI-NA Applauds New DOT Rule to Better Protect Passengers

ACI-NA commended the DOT today for issuing a new rule for passengers experiencing extended delays.

In a statement, ACI-NA President Greg Principato said this:

“Airports have long advocated that airline passengers have the right to deplane after an extended amount of delay on a runway, and ACI-NA supported a requirement for airlines to develop such deadlines,” said Principato. “We are pleased that DOT will now require domestic airlines to deplane passengers after a three-hour delay and that food and drinking water must be provided within two hours of begin delayed.”

Principato also urged DOT to move quickly to finalize other regulations under consideration, to provide additional passenger protections. He noted that airport operators have been supporting passengers on this issue, urging DOT to require all airlines – regardless of the size of their aircraft – to develop contingency plans which are incorporated into their contract of carriage. Also, given the important role of airports during lengthy tarmac delays, ACI-NA strongly supports adoption of a mandate that airlines be required to coordinate their plans with all airports at which they provide scheduled or charter service.

ACI-NA has long been active on airline passenger rights, facilities and finances. In 2008, ACI-NA participated in a DOT national task force of airlines, airports and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop contingency plans to address delays. The Task Force successfully produced a plan that addresses several issues raised by industry and passenger advocates, Principato said. A number of airports already had implemented measures in the Plan. ACI-NA also filed comments with DOT supporting enhanced protections for passengers, such as increased compensation for delayed or cancelled flights and lost baggage.