by Loren G. Edelstein | October 30, 2017
A total of 145 organizations from 38 states, including major corporations, trade associations, and state and local tourism agencies, have signed a letter urging House and Senate leaders to provide long-needed infrastructure help for U.S. airports. 
A measure that has passed the Senate (called FY 2018 THUD) lets airports raise more of their own capital at the local level through an existing user fee, the Passenger Facility Charge. The measure also protects rural travelers by prohibiting fee increases for connecting flights. The letter, spearheaded by the U.S. Travel Association and signed by business and travel leaders, urges lawmakers to support the Senate's approach to airport funding. The system badly needs investments to improve the passenger experience, enhance airline competition and facilitate economic growth, the document emphasizes.
"The health of our airport infrastructure is vital to passengers, the economy and our country's global competitiveness. The president campaigned on this issue," said Erik Hansen, vice president of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association. "It's time for Congress to prioritize the interests of the broader travel industry and, as our letter shows, virtually everyone - save but a small handful of airlines - supports the Senate's approach to airport funding."
The letter reads in part: 
"In 2015, domestic and inbound international air passengers spent $409 billion, which directly supported 3.4 million American jobs. Over the next decade, air travel is forecast to grow from 776 million to 926 million enplanements per year, which could add an additional $224 billion in annual travel spending and support 750,000 new American jobs. Unfortunately, this growth can only be realized if our airports have the financial resources to modernize and promote competition.
"Too many of our nation's airports are outdated, congested and unable to handle passenger demand. These problems are forecasted to grow and will soon be unsustainable. Within the next four years, the top 30 U.S. airports will experience passenger volumes, congestion and delays equal to the day before Thanksgiving at least once per week. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that travel demand will exceed capacity at many of the nation's largest airports within the next 15 years, unless airports achieve sustainable levels of capital investment.
"The Senate's FY 2018 THUD bill provides a fiscally responsible and revenue neutral solution to these challenges. The bill adjusts the federal limitation on PFC rates for originating passengers, which would allow each airport authority to tailor its PFC rate on a project-by-project basis, while protecting American travelers in rural communities from paying an increased PFC on connecting flights. It also empowers local airport authorities to accelerate investments in projects that improve efficiency, strengthen security, increase capacity and enhance airline competition, all of which benefit American travelers. These remedies are exactly what America's air travel system needs and the benefits would stretch far beyond airports themselves - ultimately providing a better travel experience, facilitating economic growth and keeping America's travel industry globally competitive."
Click here to read the House and Senate versions of the letter.