Category Archives: Policy Issues

Any concerning government policy

Airport Trading Cards: A Mint-Condition Marketing Opportunity

by Maureen Riley
Executive Director
Salt Lake City Department of Airports

More than 20 million people travel through Salt Lake City International Airport each year. For many of our passengers, the airport plays a big part in their imaginations. From first-time fliers to the most well-versed aviation geeks, airports have an instantaneous appeal. They represent both anticipation and completion, where travelers head off into the world and return home. Airports are also complex and fascinating communities in their own right, as our employees work to ensure safe and secure operations each day.

Earlier this month, SLC joined nearly 20 airports from across the U.S. and Canada in the inaugural series of the North American Airport Trading Cards. The idea for the cards initially had been that of a collectible. Like many of our fellow Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) members, SLC routinely gets requests from airport enthusiasts for memorabilia branded with our three-letter International Air Transport Association (IATA) code. But as SLC’s card started to take shape, another possibility emerged.

SLC Executive Director Maureen Riley and junior aviation enthusiasts show off the SLC trading card

SLC Executive Director Maureen Riley and junior aviation enthusiasts show off the SLC trading card

As the first vice chair of ACI-NA, I represent the interests of not only my own airport, but those of our full membership. ACI-NA is well-known as the “Voice of Airports” in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, but sometimes it can be a challenge to have airports stick in the minds of lawmakers. The new trading cards series helps us do exactly that.

On the back of SLC’s card, you’ll notice some fun facts, such as how we were the gateway to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and that we’re within an hour’s drive to 11 ski resorts. We also offer more than 650 daily arrivals and departures to nearly 90 non-stop destinations. But did you also know that we’re in midst of a $1.8 billion terminal redevelopment program that will be completed in 2022?

It’s this last fact that makes SLC’s trading card more than a keepsake—it transforms it into an advocacy tool. Capital improvement projects, like our terminal redevelopment, might not easily capture the public’s imagination. But when it reads like a batting average, infrastructure investment becomes an all-star stat for a world-class airport.

The next time you’re flying through SLC, stop by an airport information desk to start (or complete) your trading card collection.

ACI-NA Puts Airport Priorities at Forefront in Infrastructure Week

Note: This blog was originally published on May 15 in Aviation Daily.

By Kevin M. Burke
Since joining Airports Council International – North America in January as its new President and CEO, I have spent the last few months meeting with airport stakeholders and policy makers all around North America.  I went into this listening tour with my ears and mind open about the current and future challenges facing airports and their role in supporting our economy.

One of the needs I routinely heard – and one of my main goals for ACI-NA – comes back to the need to modernize infrastructure and our ability to advance airport priorities through the use of broad coalitions.  As a lifelong advocate, I know that participating in coalitions provides voices with a greater platform to share their unique perspective within a context that can spur action.

This week marks the second annual “Infrastructure Week,” a week-long celebration of the vast network that supports – and moves – the U.S. economy.  Endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Brookings Institute, and others including President Barack Obama, Infrastructure Week provides those in the transportation sector with a valuable opportunity to educate Congress and the American public about the important role infrastructure plays in creating U.S. jobs and growing our economy.

The aviation community is well aware that surface transportation currently is in the legislative spotlight.  But that doesn’t mean aviation infrastructure issues need to take a back seat this week.  In fact, now is an ideal opportunity to truly start gathering momentum ahead of next year’s Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.

During Infrastructure Week 2014, we at ACI-NA will be working across the infrastructure and transportation community to share the industry’s important perspective.  Our baseline message is simple and clear: airports are a fundamental component of our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

With more than 700 million passengers and 27 million metric tons of cargo traveling in and out of the United States through an airport each year, airports make a tremendous contribution to U.S. GDP—more than $1.2 trillion—and employ more than 1.2 million people.  Those are not numbers policy makers can ignore, and we at ACI-NA will not let them.

In order to ensure that our airports and commercial aviation sector continue to lead the world, we need to get serious about investing in our future.  That is exactly why ACI-NA is proud to participate in Infrastructure Week 2014.

Last year, we conducted a broad survey across North American airports to assess the current and future needs of airports as they are called upon to meet increases in passenger and cargo traffic.  We were able to identify $71.3 billion in infrastructure improvements needed by 2017 to meet strong growth projections in both passenger and cargo activity and the need to update aging infrastructure.  U.S. airports expect the number of domestic passengers alone to surpass one billion enplanements within the next 15 years, and their greatest challenge currently is obtaining the financial resources that will allow them to successfully tackle these infrastructure needs.

Airports need additional funding, and the primary source of this funding—particularly for our large hub airports—is the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).  The PFC’s maximum of $4.50 per segment, however, has not been raised since 2000, which has reduced its purchasing power by roughly half.  To put it another way: the longer the PFC’s purchasing power continues to be stalled the more expensive necessary capital improvement projects become.

The investment we make in airports will help further bolster our economy by bringing growth to other sectors, including travel, tourism, and global commerce.  If we allow U.S. infrastructure to continue to age without new investment, we will fall behind.  Any lag in our economic growth because of an outdated infrastructure jeopardizes our competitiveness in the global market.

The world is growing more global each day.  In an increasingly competitive global market, we must be able to successfully meet capacity demands with the safe, efficient, and modern facilities that passengers and cargo shippers expect.  Modernizing the way we finance airport improvement projects is essential for airports to meet these needs, all while creating U.S. jobs and growing our economy.  I look forward to working with my transportation colleagues to make that happen.

Small Airports Are Gateways to America’s Many Tourism Attractions

by Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO
ACI-NA

As National Travel and Tourism week in the U.S. comes to a close, I’d like to offer a special salute to our robust network of smaller airports that our large hubs depend on to provide millions of international visitors with convenient access to America’s many wonders.

We’ve spent this important week educating stakeholders about the positive economic contribution airports provide, especially in local communities. The U.S. operates the world’s largest – and by far most complex – air transportation system. All sizes of commercial airports around the country are vital, interconnected components of this amazing network.

Just think about it. Visitors from anywhere in the world can fly into one of the nation’s major international airports, and hop on connecting flights to Rapid City, South Dakota, to visit Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands, or to San Antonio, Texas, to see the Alamo and the many scenic wonders of the American West.

Last week, Louisville Regional Airport welcomed visitors to the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in Triple Crown thoroughbred races and the “greatest two minutes in sports.” The airport welcomed visitors with the sights, sounds and tastes of a region famous for bourbon whisky, lush pastures and horseracing prowess.

What all of these special locales from coast to coast share is participation in a nationwide interconnected aviation network.  This message remains particularly important as the federal government continues to invest in the future of transportation. The development of a 21st century transportation infrastructure depends on continued funding for vital improvement projects at airports of all sizes.

Every airport – no matter its size – supports travel and tourism.  The airport industry is proud of its role in boosting travel and tourism as the nation’s largest services export industry, one that has produced a trade surplus since 1989.  That’s why ACI-NA will continue to advocate for full funding of the Airport Improvement Program and an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge.

In order for us to remain competitive in the global travel market, it’s time to take a serious look at the ways we support our national aviation infrastructure.

Earth Week 2014: Earth Day is Every Day for Our #GreenAirports

by Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO
ACI-NA

While airports are committed to advancing sustainability and the environment year-round, we carve out some special times to mark accomplishments and celebrate environmental excellence. This week is one of those times.

The ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee just finished its Spring Conference jointly with ACI-NA’s Business Information Technology and Public Safety & Security committees in Baltimore ― a triple play that speaks to the sustainability-related synergies shared by all our airport business lines. The trio of conferences focused on such sustainability topics as airport business continuity planning, developing wireless networks for the future, and efficient wildlife management technologies.

The Environmental Spring Conference highlighted the vision of a “sustainable airport system” being advanced by the Environmental Affairs Committee and its incoming chair Phil Ralston, general manager of aviation environmental and safety at Portland International Airport. This vision explores the issues, conditions and factors that go beyond environmental matters and outlines the responsibility ACI-NA has for creating a sustainable airport system.

Today’s green airport supports a wide variety of triple-bottom line initiatives, from advanced stormwater detention systems and use of alternative energy systems to power airport operations and reduce emissions, to development of wildlife management areas and community arts programs on airport property.  A sampling of these sustainability advances is being featured in guest blog posts this week from airports in both the U.S. and Canada, and I hope you check back in to discover an exciting array of Earth-friendly initiatives.

Also, there’s still time to enter submissions for the 2014 ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Awards. The Committee is expanding the awards program to recognize an individual for the Outstanding Individual Contribution and Leadership award in addition to the Achievement Awards for airport projects. The deadline is next Thursday, May 1.

Green initiatives like these are under way every day at airports across North America, illustrating that Airports for the Future understand, and practice, the key drivers of the triple bottom line – economic, environment and community sustainability.

Getting Our Message Out There

By Kevin M. Burke
Over the last couple of days, I have had the chance to tell the airport story in several local and national forums.  My consistent message: Airports need greater funding flexibility and the ability to generate local dollars for local capital projects with a higher PFC ceiling.

In an interview with CNN that was focused on the poor standing of U.S. airports compared to our global peers, I noted, “there’s no question that U.S. airports suffer from an image problem globally, and the main culprit is our nation’s lack of dedicated infrastructure investment, particularly in its aviation infrastructure.”

“Many of our airports are operating well beyond the capacity for which they were originally intended several decades ago, and this is the reason why air travelers — international and domestic — experience crowded terminals and outdated facilities.”

I noted that the U.S. airport ownership model differs so dramatically compared to major airports around the world. Thus how we obtain funds and then use the funds is much more restricted than the corporate-owned, profit-driven airports.

Today in an op-ed published in The Hill, a publication that covers Capitol Hill and the federal bureaucracy, I wrote that “we could use more creative solutions, certainly, but greater flexibility at a minimum. Airports are a good case in point. Funded primarily from fees paid by airport users, airports urgently need a federal policy change that would increase the cap on the Passenger Facility Charges so that every local airport has the flexibility to invest in its own capital improvements.”

These are the kinds of policy hurdles that stymie transportation infrastructure investment at just the wrong time in our history, I noted. The cost of the status quo is clearly unacceptable. The time for more flexible federal transportation policy is now.

And, that was also my message on Thursday afternoon when I participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 13th Annual Aviation Summit on a panel concerned with Today’s Regulatory Environment. The panel was moderated by Washington Airport’s Jack Potter and joining me as speakers were former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey (now with AIA), Doug Lane from Boeing and Rob Wilson from Honeywell.

My colleagues on the panel had been able to incorporate the latest advancements in their systems, despite challenges with FAA certification, but I reported the airport industry has not been able to modernize its funding system. That has to change. “We need a regulatory system that allows airports to fund the critical safety, security and efficiency improvements that allow the United States to compete and win in the global aviation industry.”