ACI-NA Supports Las Vegas Petition for a New Air Service Incentive Program

In comments filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) on yesterday, ACI-NA supported a petition filed with the FAA by the Clark County Aviation Department in February of this year, encouraging greater flexibility in the implementation and review of air service incentive programs.  Noting the importance of such programs to its members, ACI-NA’s comments stated, in part, “ACI-NA believes that air service incentive programs play an important role in ensuring that commercial airports are able to attract domestic and international air service for their communities, and thus promote the development of a robust national air transportation system in which air travelers can find service options to travel throughout the United States, and indeed, throughout the world.”

The petition submitted by the Clark County Department of Aviation seeks a determination from FAA that its air service incentive program that is based on an air carrier’s year-over-year increase in landed weight, in the aggregate, is allowable under federal law and FAA policy.  Under the proposed incentive program, air carriers that increase service offerings year over year would be capable of receiving incentives based on increases in their overall landed weights as measured, carrier by carrier, from a defined month in a given year, compared to the same month in the preceding year. This program has been developed by the Airport as a means of addressing decreases in air carrier services experienced there since calendar year 2007, which the Airport has measured as representing a 17% decline from September 2007 through September 2010.

ACI-NA’s comments stressed that since the applicable standards for eligibility for incentive awards under the airport’s proposed incentive program do not reveal any inconsistency with federal obligations or requirements, the petition should be approved.  The comments further pointed out that the fact that the program has been designed in a manner that is not addressed in the FAA’s Guidebook concerning Air Carrier Incentive Programs, issued in 2010, should not be used as a basis for limiting the Airport’s ability to offer such an incentive.  Further, ACI-NA’s comments pointed out that “ if the Guidebook is to serve a useful function in enabling airports to meet air service needs of their communities, it must provide greater flexibility for review and implementation of programs expeditiously and before air service offerings decline to threatening levels.”  The comments stated further that “[e]specially during a time when airports are struggling to meet their revenue needs without the benefit of increased federal support through PFC increases, and without long-term AIP funding at necessary levels, it is critical that creative approaches to attract air travel service be applauded rather than impeded by processes that delay FAA’s substantive decision.”

Finally, ACI-NA’s comments recommended that FAA streamline the process for review of such proposals in the future, pointing out that public comment on every air service incentive proposal submitted to the FAA for its consideration would tend to unduly delay a quick review and consummation of programs that could result in the speedy implementation of much-needed air travel services.