Study Shows Airport Improvements Require $87.4B Investment to Keep Pace with Passenger Demand

WASHINGTON, DC – Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) announced the results of a comprehensive study that shows that airports must invest $87.4 billion over the next five years on new airport infrastructure, such as new runways, terminals, and gates in order to keep pace with projected passenger and air cargo demand.

This finding was included in ACI-NA’s “Airport Capital Development Costs for 2007-2011,” which was unveiled at a press briefing today.

“Anyone traveling by air today knows that aviation is already stretched to the breaking point,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato. “This study tells us that by prudently raising and investing money in the short term, we have the opportunity to help future travelers avoid delayed flights and inconvenience.”

However, the study also found that if these improvements are not made, travelers will encounter overcrowding at some of the nation’s most congested passenger airports, longer flight delays, longer waits for an open gate at destination airports, and a system under-equipped and ill-prepared to respond to new capacity, safety and security requirements.

As most air travelers have experienced recently, 2007 is stacking up to be similar to, and in some instances, worse than, 2000, a year which until now has had the dubious distinction of being the peak year for air travel delays.

In 2000, the average delay was 51 minutes — that number increased to 53 minutes in 2006, and will only increase more if airports don’t launch projects now to meet expected demand.

The Federal Aviation Administration has estimated that one billion passengers will take to the skies by 2015. In order to help airports meet this unprecedented demand, ACI-NA is launching its “Passengers First Commitment” campaign, which will encourage airline competition, improve safety and security, and enhance airport convenience and reliability.

A majority of airport improvement projects are paid for with the passenger facility charge (PFC) – a local user fee included in the overall cost of the airline ticket. PFCs are recommended by airports and, with input from airlines serving that airport, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The PFC has been capped at $4.50 since 2000, but through its Passengers First Commitment campaign, ACI-NA plans to work with Congress to provide airports with the resources they need by increasing the cap.

“Airports are already having a difficult time keeping up. An increased PFC is the only long-term solution for passengers who are frustrated by the current direction of air travel,” Principato said. “With a sensible PFC, airports will be able to create additional terminal and runway capacity, which will promote airline competition and will ultimately lower airline fares,” he added.

“These critical infrastructure projects will enhance airline safety and security. Increasing the cap is a critical step that Congress must take in order to ensure that passengers can continue to count on the current air travel infrastructure to keep up with expected demand,” Principato explained.

By law, PFCs are directly tied to local airport-related projects that enhance safety, reduce delays by increasing national air system capacity, reduce airport noise and traffic congestion, and promote competition among commercial airlines.

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