Saturday, February 11, 2017
What might 'aviation aficionado' President Trump do to modernize airports?
On Thursday, the upholding of a temporary restraining order against his executive action restricting travel from seven terror-stricken countries continued to stall President's Trump's early momentum.
While the president's day ended with the declaration that he'll take his case to the Supreme Court, it began with a productive meeting of the sort that marked the earliest days of his term. Speaking with airline and airport executives, some representing Airports Council International — North America (ACI-NA), about issues unrelated to his travel ban, Trump "stated four times that America must modernize and rebuild our airports," according to Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO, ACI-NA.
During a press briefing after the White House meeting, Burke and the airport directors in attendance expressed optimism about the president's approach. "We greatly appreciate the president's persistent, vocal support for building airport infrastructure as a key component of improving the passenger experience, rebuilding our nation, growing our economy and creating jobs," Burke said. "We had a very productive conversation today that focused on our commitment to improving the passenger experience at airports across the United States."
While Burke suggested that the president did not directly indicate a desire to privatize air traffic control, he did refer to Trump as an "aviation aficionado" who asked a lot of important questions during today's meeting, while fully embracing efforts to modernize and localize airports, pulling power away from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I see this as a positive development in terms of our arguments for uncapping the PFC (Passenger Facility Charge), basically bringing local control to decisions made by airports that benefit local areas, unlike today where the FAA has a lot of say," Burke said. Burke repeatedly emphasized removing federal limits on the local user fee known as the Passenger Facility Charge, stating that ACI-NA estimates 2.1 million jobs could be created simply by removing these limits.
"We can quickly fund and undertake these much needed infrastructure projects with no federal budget impact by giving airports more control of local investment decisions," he added.
Fielding a question about Trump's desire to rebuild airports without raising fees such as the PFC, Burke responded by saying, "He (Trump) said that he would get the money, that he would figure out a way to get the money. We see that as a positive — he obviously wants to rebuild airports, but he wasn't very specific about where he would get the money."
"We believe in our solution, uncapping the PFC and allowing local airports to make local decisions," Burke continued. "He wants it to be affordable, and so each airport would be able to use the PFC at whatever level they feel is needed. It's not always going to be the same amount for each airport. … But again, in order for an airport to modernize, that fee needs to be uncapped or raised. Preferably uncapped, because it really restricts the ability of an airport to modernize." Burke also stressed that the fee is only paid by those that use the infrastructure and are passengers on these airlines.
It's safe to say the Trump administration has hit a bit of a rough patch in recent days, but if this meeting leads to reform and modernization of an industry that supports some 10 million jobs in local communities across the country and contributes $1.1 trillion in annual economic output, perhaps it won't be long before it, and the country, are flying high once again.
Posted by Kathryn on 12:50:00 PM